Pregnancy and Body Changes

Body Changes and Pregnancy

From the very beginning of your pregnancy your body goes through major changes many of which are visible and many you do not see.   Below are descriptions of many of the changes you may experience and some suggestions for how to deal with them.

Pregnancy and Body Changes

Body Changes and Pregnancy: Trimester by Trimester

First trimester changes

Spotting or light vaginal bleeding may be the first sign of pregnancy. A small amount of bleeding can occur when the fertilized egg implants into the lining of your uterus.

Your breasts may become unusually sensitive and feel fuller and heavier.

Sleep difficulties and fatigue common during your pregnancy and you may have unusual fatigue as your body prepares to support the pregnancy.

Many women struggle with queasiness, nausea or vomiting (called morning sickness).  Most pregnant women also experience indigestion and heartburn and you may often feel bloated. To reduce indigestion and heartburn avoid greasy and fried foods, eat six to eight small meals instead of three large meals, try to gain only the recommended amount of weight, eat slowly, and ask your health care provider about taking an antacid.

You may need to urinate more often as your growing uterus presses on your bladder.

Constipation is a common by-product of pregnancy. To prevent constipation, drink plenty of fluids, eat fiber-rich foods like fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain cereals, avoid caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, colas, and some other sodas) and try to get regular exercise.

At different times during your pregnancy you may get cramps in your legs or feet. This is due to a change in the way your body processes calcium.

Second trimester changes

Your breasts will continue to get larger. You should make sure to wear extra support bras. For many women the nipples become darker and browner during pregnancy.

You may have an extra healthy and glowing appearance due to increased blood circulation including the tiny vessels just beneath the surface of your skin.

Weight gain will start to become an issue.  The amount of weight you need to gain depends upon your weight and health before you became pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists the average woman should gain 25 to 35 pounds. Women who are underweight before pregnancy should gain 28 to 40 pounds. And women who are overweight should gain 15 to 25 pounds. Make sure to ask your health care provider how much weight gain during pregnancy they recommend for you.

Many pregnant women complain of dizziness and lightheadedness throughout their pregnancies. The growth of more blood vessels, the pressure of the expanding uterus on blood vessels and the body's increased need for food all result in your feeling lightheaded and dizzy.

Increased blood circulation can soften your gums resulting in minor bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth. Every expectant mother should have a complete oral exam prior to or very early in pregnancy. You can ease bleeding gums by brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing at least twice a day.

Pressure from your uterus on the veins returning blood from your legs may cause leg cramps, especially at night.

You may notice a thin, white vaginal discharge. This discharge consists mainly of cells from the vaginal lining and normal vaginal moisture.

Third trimester changes

Your nipples may leak colostrum, the first milk that your breasts produce for the baby. Putting nursing pads inside your bra will help avoid colostrum spotting.

Your expanding uterus will put pressure on all of your organs, including your lungs and you may experience shortness of breath. Helpful ideas to ease breathing include taking deep, long breaths, maintain good posture, and using an extra pillow and try sleeping on your side to breathe easier at night.

Lower back pain and back discomfort are very common.

In this trimester sleeping may become more difficult. The baby's movements, more frequent trips to urinate and an increase in the body's metabolism might disturb your sleep.

Your growing uterus may push your stomach out of its normal position which can contribute to heartburn. In order to keep stomach acid where it belongs you may want to eat small meals and drink plenty of fluids.

Pressure from your growing uterus on the veins that return blood from your feet and legs may leave you with swollen feet and ankles. You may also get swollen hands and fingers.  It is a good idea to remove any finger rings or toe rings before your digits get too swollen. Some ideas to help reduce swelling include drinking 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily, avoid caffeine, stay away form salty foods, rest when you can with your feet elevated, and you may want to ask your doctor about using support hose.

Increased blood circulation may cause small reddish spots on your face, neck, upper chest or arms. The spots may seem to sprout tiny blood vessels that resemble spider legs. Varicose veins may develop.  These look like swollen veins raised above the surface of the skin and are most often seen on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg.

Up to 50% of pregnant women get swollen and bulging veins in the rectum and may experience rectal itching, pain and bleeding.

You may notice pink, red or purple streaks (stretch marks) along your abdomen, breasts, upper arms, buttocks or thighs. While creams and lotions can keep your skin well moisturized, they do not prevent stretch marks from forming. Most stretch marks fade after delivery to very light lines. To help reduce stretch marks, try to stay within the weight guidelines recommended by your health care provider.

Many women enjoy more luxuriant hair later in pregnancy and excess hair shedding after delivery.

Your baby generates heat and you may find yourself sweating much more than is common.

Your skin will be stretching and may be itchy especially in the abdomen area. . But red, itchy palms and soles of the feet are also common complaints. You can try using thick moisturizing creams instead of lotions on your skin, using gentle soaps, avoid hot showers or hot baths, and try not to get over-heated since heat can make the itching worse.


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