Pregnancy is a beautiful and rewarding time for the people who get to experience it…but there’s no denying that things can change during that time! Your body gets stretched and molded to accommodate the life inside you.
If you’ve never spoken frankly about your body’s changes during pregnancy, here’s your chance to hear all about it!
Behind the Scenes
Before we talk about the changes you will feel in your day-to-day pregnancy life, let’s discuss some of the things you may not see directly.
- Cardiovascular: Your blood flow will change during pregnancy to direct energy to the fetus (some effects of this you will see later on). This will lead to higher blood volume, higher resting heart rate, and lower blood pressure.
- Endocrine system: AKA, hormones. Did you know your placenta actually acts as a temporary endocrine gland during pregnancy? It produces estrogen and progesterone, allowing the uterus to grow in accommodation of the fetus, and it causes many of the side effects we feel during pregnancy, like hot flashes. At the end of the term, you’ll produce hormones to begin labor, and after, hormones to produce breast milk.
- Musculoskeletal: As the uterus grows, the rest of your body must get out of the way! Your spine will shift to balance against the heavy belly, causing the “pregnancy waddle” we all know. The ligaments of the pelvis will also loosen, so that during labor, the pelvis can stretch to allow safe passage for the baby.
- Uterine: As the baby grows in the uterus, the uterus must also grow! The uterus will push out of the pelvic cavity, pressing the other organs out of the way while the abdominal muscles stretch out.
Your first trimester is the first four months of pregnancy – this is the time that you find out you are pregnant! You would think this means the changes to your body wouldn’t be so dramatic, but don’t be so sure.
- Missed period: Well, of course! This is often how you will discover your pregnancy. You may also experience light cramping and spotting as the egg is implanted. As far as body changes go, you can say goodbye to your period for the next few months!
- Morning sickness: This is one of the most well-known side effects of pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting are caused by changes in your body’s hormones as it prepares for the pregnancy.
- Frequent urination: This will continue throughout your pregnancy, but you’ll notice it as early as your first trimester. Your growing uterus presses on your bladder, leaving less room and causing you to run to the restroom more often than before.
- Rosy skin: Or, “the pregnancy glow.” Due to increased blood circulation to support your growing baby, your skin may look extra rosy and lively. (You may also experience some pregnancy acne due to hormonal fluctuations.)
- Breast tenderness: Many people report this early in their pregnancy. Your body prepares for breastfeeding, and in your first trimester, you may find your breasts are tender and swollen.
- Vaginal changes: During the beginning of your pregnancy, the lining of your vagina will grow thicker and less sensitive, preparing for the eventual birth.
- Growing belly: Obviously! You’ll begin showing in your first trimester, as the baby begins to grow.
The second trimester is the middle stretch of pregnancy. Many symptoms from the first trimester will persist, but there are some new developments as the baby continues to grow.
- Breast growth: Your breasts may be less tender than the beginning of your pregnancy as they continue to grow. Enlarged milk deposits prepare for breastfeeding, and less obviously, your nipples may change in appearance to prevent drying out. They will produce oil and leak colostrum.
- Thin, stretched skin: As your belly grows, your skin will be stretched unlike ever before. Some women don’t experience stretch marks, but many do. Stay moisturized; although this might not prevent stretch marks, staying hydrated and soothed will keep your skin from acting up.
- Leg cramps: Caused by the pressure your baby puts on your nerves, try sleeping on your side rather than your back.
- Swelling: Feet, hands, and even face may swell as your body retains moisture for the baby.
- Back pain: From supporting the weight of your belly.
- UTI: As the pressure on your bladder increases, there can be difficulty with fully emptying it, which can lead to UTI’s.
- Braxton Hicks contractions: As you reach the end of your second trimester, you may experience “false contractions.” These should be irregular, infrequent, and short in duration.
Almost there! At this point, you’re probably both somewhat used to your pregnancy while also being eager to finally have the baby to show for it. We all know the most obvious change that happens at the end of your pregnancy, but there’s still a bit more leading up to it.
- Sleepiness: Lugging around all that extra weight, plus all of the resources going to the baby at this point, may leave you feeling overly tired. Naps help!
- Varicose veins: These swollen veins (including hemorrhoids) beneath the skin can be caused by the pressure your uterus puts on your veins, plus the change in hormones.
- Back pain: This will persist from your second trimester. As your belly grows, the aches in your back, as well as your hips, will increase.
- Labor! When it’s finally time, you will experience regular contractions, your water may break, and you will have cramps. Your cervix will dilate to prepare, and you may feel your baby shift around, getting ready for its grand exit.
So what happens after you give birth? Believe it or not, you don’t just “go back to normal!”
- Hormonal: After birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels (which were just at an all-time high) drop very low. This can lead to Postpartum Depression (PPD). Meanwhile, oxytocin (the “bonding” hormone) goes up!
- Breast changes: The changes to your breasts are still not done! After birth, prolactin kicks in, allowing milk production. Even after breastfeeding, your breasts might not go back to their pre-pregnancy state…so it might be time to invest in new bras.
- Vaginal changes: Cramps will occur for a few days after birth, caused by the uterus shrinking back down. You will also experience bloody discharge (“lochia”) for a few weeks.
- Bathroom habits: Unfortunately, your urinary troubles may not be done after birth. During the act of labor, many women experience trouble with their pelvic floor, which can lead to incontinence or trouble going. Constipation is also common after childbirth.
- Hair loss: It’s normal to lose a portion of your hair after giving birth – this is due to the shift in hormones you experience.
These are just some of the most common changes to prepare for during pregnancy. Have we missed any of the things you experienced during your pregnancy? Let us know in the comments!