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20 Biggest Changes to Your Body During Pregnancy

Missed Period

Often, the first sign that you may be pregnant is one or two missed periods. Once the body begins producing HCG, your periods will stop.

However, it is normal to spot or bleed lightly at the time you would have normally had a cycle.

Excess Gas

You may have noticed that you are feeling a bit more gas in your belly right now. The reason for this is because the progesterone running through the body at this time relaxes all the muscles in the body.

This includes the muscles in the intestines. This creates slower moving muscles in the intestines leading to slower digestion, which increases the chances of getting indigestion.

Nausea

Nausea or morning sickness, whichever you call it is a result of the increased hormones in the body. Not everyone will experience morning sickness, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Many healthy babies are born to women who have had little to no nausea during pregnancy.

However, some doctors do think morning sickness is a good sign of a healthy pregnancy because it means that the placenta is developing well. Furthermore, studies have shown that women with nausea and vomiting during the first trimester have a lower risk of miscarriage.

Frequent Urination

In your first trimester, you may have noticed that your need to urinate is coming to you more frequently. This is mainly due to the increased amount of blood in the body that causes the kidneys to need to produce extra fluids, which then end up in the bladder.

Later in the pregnancy, even more frequent urination could result from the extra pressure of the weight of the baby on your bladder.

Increased Fatigue

Let’s not beat around the bush, here. Your body is tired because it’s growing a new human and that takes a lot of work. In addition to hormonal changes, physical and emotional changes also lower your energy levels and make you feel fatigued.

These changes include increased estrogen and progesterone, lower blood pressure and sugar levels, increased blood flow, stress and anxiety, and back, hip, and pelvic pain to name a few causes of fatigue during pregnancy.

Shortness of Breath

In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the increase of progesterone causes you to breathe more often. This can look and feel like shortness of breath because the hormone expands the lungs to capacity, thus allowing blood to carry large quantities of oxygen to the baby.

Later in pregnancy, shortness of breath can be caused by the uterus putting pressure on the diaphragm which reduces lung capacity. Most women find that breathing improves as the baby drops in the belly in preparation for birth.

Widening Hips

In the early stages of pregnancy, hormones cause the body to begin loosening ligaments, which aids in getting used to a different center of gravity, and providing the base for the body’s structure to expand to make room for your growing fetus.

It may feel like your hips are widening in preparation for birth, but it’s actually the pelvis that is spreading. The joints and ligaments between the bones in the pelvis are what begin to loosen and spread, allowing the uterus to expand rapidly after the first trimester.

Constipation

Oh, yes! Pregnancy hormones are to blame for this, too! Progesterone causes the muscles in the bowels to relax, allowing food to hang around longer in the digestive tract, which causes varying levels of constipation.

In addition, pressure of the expanding uterus on the intestines, worry, anxiety, minimal physical exercise, dehydration, and/or a low-fiber diet may also cause constipation during pregnancy.

Hair and Nails

During pregnancy, estrogen increases the length of hair follicles, which can result in a thicker and healthier looking head of hair. Unfortunately, estrogen causes hair to grow in many unwanted places as well, such as the upper lip, stomach, back, and nipples.

Estrogen also contributes to the coarsening of nails, making them more brittle and softer, and easier to split—it is that that this may be a result of increased blood flow to the fingers and toes due to the increased estrogen levels.

Increased Heart Rate

During pregnancy, the body can acquire up to 45% extra blood, causing the heart to have to pump faster to move this extra blood through the body. During pregnancy, your heart rate may increase by 10-20 extra beats per minute.

During the 2nd trimester, the blood vessels in body start to dilate or get bigger. This can cause your normal blood pressure levels to slightly raise.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions are when your uterus tightens up, getting your body ready for labor and delivery. Many describe these as feeling like mild menstrual cramps or a tightening in a specific area of the abdomen that comes and goes.

It is normal to feel Braxton Hicks contractions as early as 20 weeks pregnant. They can tend to feel more intense and happen more often after exercise or intercourse, especially in the 3rd trimester. They can also happen if you’re doing too much and/or get dehydrated.

Growing Baby Bump

Your once flat belly is about to get a makeover. In the first 12 weeks of your first pregnancy you may not notice anything at all. If this is your second or more pregnancy, you may notice the bump a bit earlier.

You will, however, notice a small bump at around 12 – 16 weeks of pregnancy—when the baby will have grown to about the size of a lemon. Even though every person is different, baby bump circumference growth is usually in accordance with your weeks of pregnancy, ergo 2 weeks = 2 centimeters, 37 weeks = 37 centimeters.

Weight Gain

Unfortunately, there is no way to safely avoid gaining weight during pregnancy, although some women are naturally lucky that way. A woman of average weight should gain anywhere between 25 to 35 pounds.

Although, every person’s pregnancy is different, there are some guidelines to follow. Most of the time, underweight women should gain 28-40 pounds throughout the course of the pregnancy, while overweight women may only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds.

Pregnancy Glow

One of the benefits of being pregnant is what most people like to call the ‘pregnancy glow. A combination of factors creates this phenomenon. Firstly, more blood volume in the body brings more blood to vessels, resulting in a flushed skin look.

Hormone levels also increase causing the skin glands on the face to secrete more oil which can make skin look slightly shinier. There is no set timeframe during the pregnancy for this to happen, but it usually takes place during the second trimester, which is the height of when the changes in your body takes place.

Breast Size Increases

In the beginning of pregnancy, the first changes you will notices is that your breasts may become tight and feel swollen, tender, and sensitive. Blood flow to your breasts increases as the body begins to build up the milk ducts.

This causes breasts to grow quickly, sometimes up to a full cup size in the first 6 weeks. As the pregnancy progresses, a woman may go through several bra size changes as the breasts continue to grow and prepare to nourish your baby.

Nose Spreads

That’s right. That pesky estrogen is at it again! The increased blood flow occurs everywhere in the body, but especially effects the mucus membranes in the body.

That increase in blood flow can cause swelling or puffiness in the mucus membranes of the body, which can cause the nose to appear larger on the outside. In the third trimester, a swollen nose can also be due to water retention.

Back Pain

When it comes to back pain during pregnancy, you can blame that on your growing uterus. In the beginning of pregnancy, back pain can be attributed to an increase of hormones and stress.

In addition, the relaxin hormone causes the joints and ligaments to become looser in preparation for birth. This same hormone causes the ligaments that support the spine to loosen as well, leading to instability and pain.

Blood Pressure

To determine what your normal blood pressure is during pregnancy, your doctor will more than likely take a baseline reading to compare it to any subsequent blood pressure tests you will receive throughout the pregnancy. Normal blood pressure should be anything below 120/80 mm Hg.

Anywhere from five weeks to mid-second trimester, your blood pressure may decrease due to pregnancy hormones that stimulate the blood vessels to widen and resistance to flow through the body is minimized.

Uterus Growth

You may not feel it, but your uterus is expanding as we type this. The uterus is almost magical—being remarkably elastic, it can stretch to about 500 times its pre-pregnancy size and can also grow in weight from a couple of ounces to more than two pounds.

The lining of the uterus thickens, and its blood vessels enlarge to provide nourishment to the fetus. Then the uterus expands as the pregnancy progresses to make room. By the time the baby is born, the uterus will have expanded to many times its normal size.

Varicose Veins

Although they are unsightly, varicose veins are common during pregnancy and are usually a harmless side effect. These veins occur when the uterus applies pressure to the large vein that carries blood back to the heart from your feet and legs.

Most of the time you won’t feel them, but they can become itchy, uncomfortable, or even painful sometimes. Varicose veins will usually occur in the legs, however, veins near the vagina and vulva can also be affected. They can become swollen and pop out usually in the third trimester and will usually go away after pregnancy.