Bodily Changes You Can Expect While Pregnant
It’s a well-known fact that pregnancy comes with a variety of changes to the body. But those changes can be the common and expected changes, like swelling and weight gain, to less common ones like changes in body temperature. We find it best to know what to expect which is why we will break down the changes you may experience during pregnancy.
Believe it or not, pregnancy can dramatically affect a woman’s sight, taste, and smell.
Changes in vision
Although there is no precise explanation for why this happens, some women experience increased nearsightedness during pregnancy with vision returning after birth. Some changes that are common are blurred vision and discomfort with contact lenses while some women may be at risk for retinal detachment or vision loss, although these cases are much rarer.
Changes in taste and smell
Often times during pregnancy, women have a higher threshold for sour, salty, and sweet tastes because many are afflicted by dysgeusia, a decrease in the ability to taste, which most commonly occurs during the first trimester. Generally, they regain full tasting capability after pregnancy.
It’s no secret that pregnant women often have cravings and those cravings may vary from trimester to trimester.
Pregnant women also report changes in their sense of smell, often described as a heightened sensitivity to odors. This can cause nausea for many women that experience it.
Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy
Pregnant women go through a sudden and dramatic increase in estrogen and progesterone levels. These changes in not only the amount but also the function of these hormones and a number of other hormones affect mood, aid in the development of the fetus, alter the effect of physical activity on the body, and create that “glow” everyone talks about in pregnancy.
Changes in estrogen and progesterone
A woman will produce more estrogen during one pregnancy than during her entire life when not pregnant. The increase in estrogen supports the developing baby and transfers nutrients from the uterus to the fetus.
Estrogen levels will increase steadily throughout the pregnancy and reach their peak in the third trimester. During the first trimester, the rapid increase in estrogen levels can cause the nausea that is often associated with pregnancy. During the second trimester, the increase in estrogen plays a role in the development of the milk ducts that cause the breasts to enlarge.
Progesterone is the second hormone that plays a big role in pregnancy and these levels are also extremely high. These changes cause a loosening of ligaments and joints in the body and can cause organs to grow in size, which is how the uterus, normally the size of a pear is able to accommodate a full-term baby.
Greater risk of exercise injuries
With looser ligaments, a pregnant woman may be more prone to sprains and strains of the ankles and knees which can make exercising difficult. In addition, a pregnant woman will most likely experience a change in her posture. Her breasts have grown, her stomach becomes convex, and her back becomes more curved, all changes that can shift the center of gravity forward and cause her to lose her balance more often.
Pregnant women also retain fluids and, as a result, experience swelling of the face and limbs which places another limitation on exercising. The increase in water weight accounts for a significant amount of weight gain during pregnancy. Here are our tips for reducing swelling:
- Avoid caffeine and sodium.
- Avoid standing up for long periods of time.
- Increase your dietary potassium intake.
Changes in the breasts and cervix
Hormonal changes also lead to physiological changes throughout the body that are preparing the woman’s body for pregnancy, giving birth, and breastfeeding.
Changes in the breasts
Pregnant women’s breasts often undergo quite a few changes during pregnancy as the body prepares to produce and supply milk to the new baby. These may include:
- Hormones that affect the skin’s pigmentation often darken the areola.
- Stretch marks and veins may become more visible on the breasts, especially if they’ve grown rapidly.
- The size of the nipple and areola will likely increase.
- Small bumps may form on the areola.
- Most women will start producing and sometimes leaking small amounts of a thick, yellowish substance (colostrum) during the second trimester.
- Small lumps may form in the breast tissue indicating blocked milk ducts. If these don’t disappear after a few days of massaging the breasts and warming them with a washcloth, have a doctor examine it.
Changes in the cervix
The cervix is the entrance to the uterus and must also undergo physical changes in order to prepare for pregnancy and labor. The tissue of the cervix will likely thicken and become more firm and glandular. It will then soften and dilate slightly from the pressure of the growing baby in the weeks before birth.
In the early stages of pregnancy, the cervix produces a thick mucus plug to seal off the uterus which is later expelled in late pregnancy or during delivery.
As leaders in our industry, Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care offers support before, during, and after pregnancy and together, we will walk through this time of big changes with you.