The physical body undergoes many changes during pregnancy; you might be informed about some common changes or might be clueless about the uncommon ones. Remember, that not all women experience the same changes as it may be experienced differently or may not be experienced at all. Pregnancy is a wonderful experience which only a woman is privileged to, so enjoy each and every change it brings along while taking it all in your stride as in the end you will be rewarded with a bundle of giggles and laughter. Let’s see what all are the physical changes that happen during pregnancy:
- Swollen breasts: Changes in breast size and appearance start being obvious from the first trimester itself; in fact it is one of the first signs of pregnancy. Your breast size will increase and will be swollen and tender. Do not confuse tender breasts as a sign of an impending menstrual cycle as during pregnancy, breasts will become enlarged, tender accompanied with a tingling sensation.
Reasons for swollen breasts
This happens due to increased levels of hormones – estrogen and progesterone. The changes in your breasts will continue till the end of your pregnancy which would mean frequent changes in your bra size. Not only the cup-size alters every month but also the size of the chest. You will be adding more inches to your chest size as not only will you be putting on some weight every month but also because of the fact that you would need to breath in more oxygen for the baby and you. This might lead to an increased rising and falling of the chest with every inhalation and exhalation.
- Increased hair growth and changes in texture: During pregnancy an increased growth of hair and a change in texture of hair are observed.
Reasons for increased hair growth and change in texture
This happens due to hormonal changes taking place in your body, the increased hormonal levels especially estrogen interferes with the natural cycle of hair growth and fall, stimulating only growth of hair. Hair resumes its natural growth cycle after childbirth and most women notice increased hair fall after delivery. Hair fall after delivery is just the natural growth cycle of hair resuming where the increased “resting phase” of hair stops and starts falling all together. Increased or new hair growth may be noticed in your face, abdomen and back and on all unexpected places. Changes in the hair texture may be noticed where curly hair might get straight and vice versa.
- Accelerated growth of nails: The hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy can make your nails grow quickly. Nails might become brittle, or on the other extreme may get stronger. So, a change in texture and growth of nails is observed which will be back to normal after pregnancy.
- Changes in skin appearance: The pregnancy hormones can cause many changes in your skin’s appearance. You might experience the ‘pregnancy glow’ or you may encounter some skin problems which may be new or which would have aggravated from existing skin problems. Chloasma or ‘pregnancy mask’ is common in pregnant women which is characterized by brownish pigmentation on the face. In pregnant women, pigmentation is also seen as a thin line running from the navel to the pubic bone called as linea nigra. Pigmentation will also be seen in the nipples and areolas (skin surrounding nipples) which will becomes darker in color and bigger in size. * Facial skin pigmentation can be prevented to an extent by using sunscreen and avoiding overexposure to sunrays. Another common skin problem during pregnancy is acne, which happens due to increased oil production by sebaceous glands. Deal with the situation by using a clarifying face wash and water-based lotions. Your skin may feel irritated and itchy due to the expanding belly, use a soothing body lotion.
- Stretch marks: Stretch marks appear on the abdomen area, thighs and breasts during pregnancy as the body expands and stretches to accommodate a developing fetus. When the dermis (the middle layer of the skin responsible for elasticity and strength) undergoes constant stretching, it ruptures in various places and leads to formation of stretch marks. They appear as pink in colour and later become glossy white in colour; stretch marks never fade away completely.
- Increased size of feet: Your feet will swell up slightly due to the increased volume of fluids in your body during pregnancy. Your existing pair of shoes may not fit you or be extremely uncomfortable. The swelling is only temporary and will disappear after pregnancy but you would need to wear shoes a size bigger then your usual size to accommodate your swelled feet.
- Increased risk of injury, aches and posture changes: The hormone relaxin is produced during pregnancy which loosens joints and muscles of the body which make you prone to injury. This hormone aids during the birthing process as it lets the pelvic outlet expand during labor. The resultant laxity in muscles and joints also leads to changes in posture during pregnancy. Lower back pain is quite common during pregnancy due to the extra weight of the fetus being carried around in a different posture which your body is not used to. This change in posture puts strain on the back muscles and causes aches.
- Others: Constipation during pregnancy is quite common and it might be caused due to the pregnancy hormones which slows down digestion or due to the increased pressure of the growing uterus on the rectum. Constipation is rarely serious but more of a discomfort but in certain cases chronic constipation can lead to hemorrhoids or piles which can be painful and cause rectal bleeding. Piles and hemorrhoids are treatable and should not be a cause of worry. Prevent constipation by having a fiber-rich diet, plenty of fluids and exercise every day.
Mental and Emotional Well-Being
Your mental and emotional wellbeing also undergoes changes during pregnancy. The reason behind emotional up and downs is hormonal fluctuations and your altered state of mind- what and how you think.
An emotionally topsy-turvy state
There will be sudden changes in mood where you will be laughing at one moment and crying in the next! Your emotional topsy-turvy situation might take you by surprise but accept it, as all pregnant women go through the same rollercoaster ride.
Changes that you might experience are
- Motherly instincts: Pregnancy will trigger motherly feelings and instincts in you much before childbirth. You will be planning ahead and preparing for the arrival of the baby. From doing up your home, to purchasing clothes, reading on nurturing and parenting skills and everything related with baby- you will know!
- Mood swings: Pregnancy can be an overwhelming experience especially for first-time mothers. Mood swings are quite common during pregnancy which is caused due to hormonal changes and also due to conscious and sub-conscious thoughts. You will be excited one moment, and stressed out the very next moment. Various questions will be running in your mind regarding the health of the baby, your financial situation, you’re parenting skills and lots of other questions. Understand you are not alone in experiencing such gamut of feelings, there are many to-be-moms facing the same.
- Depression and anxiety: The hormonal and chemical changes during pregnancy can make you feel down in the dumps. Depression is a mood disorder which can affect health of both the mother and baby. It is much more intense than mood swings and can affect daily activities such as sleeping, eating, working and interaction. Women who have had a past personal history or family history of depression are at risk of suffering from it during pregnancy. Depression is quite common among pregnant women as at least twenty percent of them suffer from it.
Symptoms of depression
Uncontrolled anxiety often leads to depression. Symptoms of anxiety include panic attacks that make your heart race, make you lightheaded and breathless, also frequent negative thoughts or worries about baby’s health are common.
- Stress: Being anxious and worrying about your pregnancy is normal and experienced by all would-be mothers. Stressing yourself about the unborn, childbirth, changes in responsibilities, relationships and finances is a lot to handle during pregnancy. Sharing your thoughts with your partner and getting support from family and friends will help you feel lighter and reduce your stress levels. Stress can be harmful during pregnancy, so relax. Some anxiety is fine until you reach a breaking point where you seem to have no control on your thoughts and emotions which are only negative, this might lead to depression. Talk to your doctor.
- Low levels of concentration: Morning sickness and fatigue coupled with sleepless nights can hamper your mental processing. Due to the hormonal changes and preoccupation with the unborn, most pregnant mothers have difficulty in concentrating and are prone to forgetfulness.
- Variety of emotions regarding body image: Many women have difficulty in adjusting to their new body image. While some women are confident and love their changing body as it affirms a growing life, others might feel awkward and shy. It is important to feel comfortable with your expanding belly and move around confidently as not only it is a matter of joy to be a mother but also a blessing.