Royal traditions: They're inescapable, even when your body is busy growing another human. While Meghan Markle won't have any hard and fast rules that she'll be expected to follow during her pregnancy (thankfully—the last thing we need to do is police the bodies of women, royal or not), there are definitely some royal pregnancy traditions that there's a good chance she'll choose to observe as she prepares to welcome her first child with Prince Harry. Here are some royal pregnancy traditions you might not have realized were a thing.
It's not an overt rule, but typically, the Queen is the first to know if a member of the royal family is expecting or when they give birth. In fact, Will even used an encrypted phone line to call Elizabeth and give her the news when George was born before telling anyone else, according to the Daily Mail.
Baby showers are totally common in the United States, where Meghan is from, but they're not a usual part of pregnancy in the UK, where she lives now. While she's allowed to have one if she really wants to, she probably won't.
"Baby showers are largely something done in North America, not the UK," royal historian and expert Marlene A. Koenig explained to Business Insider. "Of course, Meghan can get baby gifts and I would not be surprised if her American and Canadian friends have a shower for her. Baby showers are not a UK tradition and has nothing to with being royal."
Oftentimes, royals don't even learn the sex of their child themselves—and in they do, they definitely don't make the news public.
"Knowing the sex in advance is more American than British," royal expert and historian Marlene Koenig, author of Royal Musings blog, told Harper's Bazaar. "I will be surprised if they know the sex in advance. If they find out, they will not be telling the world. I cannot think of any British or European royal announcing the sex of a child before the announcement is made."
Generally speaking, royals announce their pregnancies to the public at about the 12-week mark. A notable exception was mad when Kate Middleton was pregnant with Prince Louis and decided to make the announced earlier than usual because she was suffering from severe morning sickness, according to PopSugar.
When royals are expecting, they tend to limit their travel and are discouraged from traveling internationally during their pregnancy, according to Metro UK. Of course, this doesn't mean it's completely forbidden. Meghan Markle just completed her royal tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga while pregnant, for example.
Cleavage is always a royal no-no (Diana famously carried "cleavage bags"—small clutches she could use to cover her chest in lower cut outfits), and that applies during pregnancy, as well. Since women's breasts tend to grow during pregnancy, this means a lot of high necklines and demure coats for royal women who are expecting.
Kate Middleton dealt with this during all three of her pregnancies. The Duchess of Cambridge has notoriously suffered from terrible morning sickness while pregnant (a condition officially known as hyperemesis gravidarum). The official royal website detailed Kate's health issues, explaining in a press release that her condition is a "very acute morning sickness, which may require supplementary hydration, medication, and nutrients."
Royals are, as a general rule, expected to wear closed-toed shoes. This fashion rule still applies during pregnancy, even if the royal mother-to-be in question is dealing with swollen feet or ankles.
True story. The royal household has its own official gynecologist who oversees all royal births. Marcus Setchell, who served as the Queen's official gyno until 2013 actually postponed his retirement to stay on long enough to deliver Prince George. Alan Farthing is the current surgeon-gynecologist to the royal household and has been overseeing royal births since Princess Charlotte was welcomed to the world in 2015.
Even though we all know that the official locale for royal birthing is the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital, there's more going on behind the scenes, when it comes to the birthing plan. Apparently, teams of about 20 experts, including obstetricians, anesthetists, pediatricians, laboratory technicians, and midwives, among others, are assembled and on-call during royal pregnancies.
"We had a huge team. For anything that could possibly go wrong we had a team of people behind each speciality," Tiong Ghee Teoh, a consultant and gynecologist told Town & Country of what went on behind-the-scenes during Kate's pregnancy with Charlotte.
"We were on call for three months. You never know when you need to be called — you need to be in town and available," anesthesiologist Johanna Bray added.
Unsurprisingly, the large birthing team tapped to be on-call during royal pregnancies are all all sworn to secrecy.
As Meghan and Harry discuss baby names, they'll probably stick to classics. Unlike Will and Kate, however, Harry and Meghan will have some flexibility in naming, since their child will be seventh in the line of succession.
"The further down the line of succession, the more likely you are to have a more unique or untraditional name," Carolyn Harris, a history professor at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and author of Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting, told Vogue Australia.
Still, Harry and Meghan can make up for the uniqueness in quantity—royal babies typically have three or four names. Prince George's full name is George Alexander Lewis and Princess Charlotte's full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, for example.
As anyone who follows the royal family knows, new moms in the royal family make their first post-delivery public appearance very quickly—like, within hours of giving birth. A lot of planning goes into the outfit the new mom will wear, if Kate's choices have been any indication. After she gave birth to George, she stepped out in a polka-dot dress that was reminiscent of the dress Diana wore after welcoming her first born, Prince William.
Since Meghan and Harry have been conscious of finding ways to honor Diana themselves during their relationship, it's likely Meghan will look for a way to give a nod to her late mother-in-law as well.
The royal family might be very old school about a lot of things, but they are more modern when it comes to giving new moms plenty of paid time off from work after giving birth. Royal moms get to take maternity leave, the length of which can vary, during which time they're exempt from making their usual appearances and performing their official royal duties. Most recently, Kate Middleton took five months of maternity leave after welcoming Prince Louis (she did, however, make some appearances at important family events, like Harry and Meghan's wedding and the Queen's Trooping the Colour celebration).
It might seem like a no-brainer, but for years, the royal family basically cut the non-royal grandparents out of the whole pregnancy process—and out of the royal baby's life once it was born. Thankfully, this has changed with modern times, meaning Meghan's mom Doria Ragland, whom she's very close to, will be welcomed at all of the important pre- and post-birth events.
So here's a fun fact: Until the early 20th century, royal babies actually had no last name at all. They were known by the names of the county of which they ruled instead. Will and Kate's kids use "Cambridge" as their last name at school, so Harry and Meghan's child will *probably* use Sussex as his or her last name (or maybe Markle-Sussex or just Markle—dare to dream, right?).
Meghan may want to invest in a pump though. Breastfeeding is a longstanding royal tradition—Queen Elizabeth II breastfed her children, and so did Princess Diana. Kate has also reportedly breastfed her children, but that one hasn't been officially confirmed.
Starting with William, paternity leave became an official royal baby tradition. Wills received unpaid paternity leave from the Royal Air Force for the births of George and Charlotte, before he stepped down to focus full-time on royal duties.
Meghan and Harry already got the first taste of this during their tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga in October. It's customary for the leaders of foreign governments to send baby gifts. Fans and members of the public also send tons of gifts. When Prince George was born back in 2013, he received 610 unofficial presents and his gifts were displayed at the "Royal Childhood" Buckingham Palace exhibit.