a woman sits in a field holding and looking at her pregnant stomach

Understanding Prenatal Body Changes

Pregnancy can change a woman’s body in some surprising ways. Between rising hormonal levels and rapid abdominal growth, it’s hard to keep up with your own body. Here’s a look at some of the most common changes a woman faces during pregnancy. 

Missed Period

The first physical sign of pregnancy is usually a missed menstrual period. This occurs because your body is using the thick uterine lining to provide the ideal growing environment for your little one instead of shedding it like normal. Another early sign of pregnancy is PMS-like cramping. This is because your uterus is getting ready for the nine months of stretching ahead.

Breast Changes

Your breasts may become enlarged and tender, with dark veins under the skin and darker nipples and areolas (the area around the nipples). This is, in part, a hormonal response, and partly the beginning of lactation, allowing you to breastfeed your baby. Wearing a sports bra may help ease the sensitivity.

Fatigue

Fatigue is just a nice word for sheer exhaustion. Fatigue generally decreases mid-pregnancy, only to come back with a vengeance in the third trimester. Take frequent naps, get plenty of continuous sleep at night, and stay hydrated. 

Cravings and Nausea 

Increased hunger comes from the high demand for extra energy while your baby continues to grow. Those pregnancy hormones and your newly heightened sense of smell are to blame for your sudden nausea. Morning sickness usually eases up after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Eat easy-to-digest carbohydrate, like crackers or toast, until the nausea passes; opt for small meals your body can more easily digest throughout the day. 

Frequent Urination

Get familiar with the term 'pregnant bladder.' As early as the first month, you may find yourself rushing to the bathroom to urinate as often as every hour due to hormones and extra fluid. As your pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus will put pressure on the bladder, leaving you with the constant urge to urinate. Don't be surprised if you leak some urine while laughing, coughing, or sneezing while pregnancy.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins, or bulging, dark blue, swollen veins, are a common development during pregnancy, especially on the legs. Varicose veins appear as a result of the extra weight you’re carrying and the extra blood volume your body is pumping. These unsightly veins tend to fade gradually after the pregnancy, although they may never go away completely.

Dermatological Changes

Your hair, nails, and skin will look radiant as you hit the second trimester. Pregnancy hormones usually suppress the shedding tendency of hair, making it thicker. If you’ve always had a difficult time with brittle nails that refuse to grow, this may be the time for regular manicures. Your skin will seem to 'glow', from extra oil production, fluid retention, or a combination of the two. Unfortunately, depending largely on genetics, you may also develop stretch marks on your abdomen as your skin loses elasticity and grows too rapidly for cell production to keep up with. Regular use of a good lotion can help with appearance.