Updated: Sep 5, 2021
When you are pregnant, your body undergoes significant physical and physiological changes in order to nurture and accommodate the developing fetus right from the time of conception. Here, we talk about some of the common changes you may notice in your pregnancy.
A healthy weight gain during pregnancy will help you to have a smooth delivery and avoid pregnancy complications. It is important to maintain a well balanced diet to provide you and your baby with the best possible nutrients.
Pregnancy is divided into 3 stages, otherwise termed as trimesters.
The ideal weight gain during pregnancy should depend on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) level. Initially, morning sickness may cause some weight loss. Thereafter, the recommended weight gain for a normal weight female is 25 to 35 lbs (11 to 16kg). The weight usually remains static in the last couple of weeks.
Note: The average weight gain shown is an average. Rapid weight gain may point to Hypertensive pregnancy (Preeclampsia) and weight reduction may point to growth restriction of the fetus. These require urgent care and supervision. You and your health care provider need to discuss the ideal weight gain and talk about the weight changes during your pregnancy.
During the course of pregnancy, the normal functions within your body undergo various (physiological) changes in order to adapt to the increasing demands of the growing baby.
A new organ called the placenta develops in the uterus and it produces various pregnancy hormones like Human Chorionic Gonadotropin(HCG), Estrogen, Progesterone, etc. These hormones are largely responsible for triggering the physiological changes that help in the sustenance of a pregnancy.
Following are some of the common changes that are happening in your body:
Blood volume increases to meet the requirements of the growing uterus and baby. The size of your hearts and kidneys will increase to help circulate and filter the large amount of blood volume. This overall increased blood circulation is also why there is a blushed appearance of your face.
Swelling and bluish discoloration of the genital organs, caused by the increased blood circulation in the genital area.
Blood clotting factors increase so as to restrict blood loss during delivery and immediately after it.
Demand for Iron, Folic acid, Vitamin B12, Iodine and Calcium increases to meet the requirements of the developing baby, especially during the beginning of the pregnancy. Supplements for these will usually be prescribed by your doctor.
Body Metabolism is higher and helps convert your food into nutrients and energy for you and your baby.
Higher Oxygen demand results due to the high metabolism rate as well as due to the requirements of the growing baby.
Decreased muscle tone of the Gastro-intestinal tract (tract consists of the stomach and intestine, and includes all the structures from the mouth to the anus) causes reduced bowel movements which in turn helps with the absorption of more nutrients from food. You can increase your intake of fluids, vegetables and milk to help with regulating your bowel.
All these changes happening in your body are normal for a pregnancy, and generally should not be cause for alarm.
The internal physiological changes in your body also cause physical changes that you may actually see or experience. Common changes or symptoms noted throughout the pregnancy:
First Trimester (Week 1 - Week 12):
Extreme tiredness or Fatigue. One of the first symptoms of pregnancy and affects almost all women. It lasts for approximately 12–14 weeks and then resolves for the majority.
Morning Sickness. Nausea and vomiting are characteristically more often seen in the first pregnancy than in subsequent ones. It appears within 8 weeks of the last menstrual period and rarely lasts beyond the 16th week. While morning sickness usually does not affect the health status of the mother, its intensity can vary from nausea on rising from the bed, to loss of appetite or even vomiting.
Amenorrhea or absence of menstrual bleeding throughout pregnancy. In some women, cyclic bleeding can be seen upto the end of the 1st Trimester( 0-12 weeks). The bleeding is scanty, of shorter duration and roughly corresponds with pre-pregnancy cycle dates.
A feeling of fullness in the Breasts or a pricking sensation around 6-8th weeks. This can happen especially in a first time pregnancy. Breast changes include increased size, visible delicate veins under the skin, and increased pigmentation of the nipple and areola.
Increased frequency of urination. This can sometimes be a troubling symptom usually during the 8-12th week of pregnancy. Thereafter it disappears.
Braxton-Hicks Contractions. Throughout the pregnancy, the uterus is irregularly and painlessly contracting. Initially you may not be conscious about these contractions. These sensations can be felt when your belly becomes intermittently firmer as the muscles tighten across your belly.
Second Trimester (Week 13 - Week 28):
Abdomen enlargement is visibly noticeable from the 2nd Trimester (13-28 weeks) onwards due to the growing Uterus.
Baby movements can be felt from 16-18th week onwards. As your pregnancy continues, you may start to feel more movements and kicks of the baby.
Braxton-Hicks contractions become more evident. There is no treatment for these uterine contractions, but you can ease them by:
Changing your current posture/position.
Going for a walk if you have not moved and have been sitting down for a long time
Lying down to rest, if you have been very active and walking about
Taking a warm bath
Taking deep breaths to relax or go for a nap
Drinking more water to rehydrate
Areolas often become larger and darker during the second and third trimesters. A yellowish thick secretion called colostrum can be seen after the 12th week. A secondary areola or pigmented area may also appear around the primary areola. These changes steadily progress throughout the pregnancy.
Chloasma or skin pigmentation may appear around the 24th week over the forehead, cheeks and around the eyes, which spontaneously disappears after delivery.
When melanin production increases during pregnancy, a brownish black pigmented line called Linea Nigra may appear vertically along the midline of the abdomen, stretching from below the chest to the lower abdomen. Linea nigra typically disappears within a few months after delivery
Stretch marks may start to appear in the second trimester and are often found in the lower abdomen below the belly button. For some women, it appears at around 30 weeks of pregnancy and sometimes over the thighs and breasts. Controlling your weight gain and massaging the abdominal wall with lubricants like olive oil may help to reduce formation of stretch marks.
Varicose (swollen, twisted, and lengthened) veins may appear on the legs and feet or even in the genital area. They do not cause harm. Any pain or discomfort of leg varicosities may be relieved by using compression stockings or elevation of legs during rest. Moving around more and avoiding crossing your legs when sitting can also help relieve discomfort. The varicose veins usually disappear following delivery.
Third Trimester (Week 29 - End of Pregnancy):
Progressive enlargement of the abdomen will continue during 29-40 weeks. This may cause some discomfort and you may often feel breathless on exertion.
Pressure relief in the abdomen may be felt at about 38th week when the baby moves downwards into the pelvis and releases some pressure.
Increased frequency of urination comes back towards the end of pregnancy.
Baby movements are more pronounced. You may feel your baby move several times a day.
Braxton Hicks Contractions - Closer to delivery week, the frequency and intensity of the Braxton Hicks contractions increases to cause some discomfort, which is sometimes confused with labor pain.
Haemorrhoids (also known as piles - enlarged and bulging blood vessels in and around the anus) may appear in the 3rd trimester and resolve after delivery.
Other minor ailments that you notice at different stages of your pregnancy may include-
Acidity and Heartburn - caused due to increasing pressure from the enlarging uterus on the stomach and may even lead to gastro-esophageal reflux, causing discomfort and burning sensation in your chest. Avoid overeating and do not go to bed immediately after a meal to minimize the occurrence.
Constipation results from reduced bowel movements and due to poor dietary fibre intake. Making appropriate dietary modifications can help with your bowel movements.
Backache - can be relieved by appropriate back massages and back exercises.
Groin pain - may be felt from the second trimester onwards when you make sudden roll over movements during sleep. It occurs due to stretching of the round ligament that connects the uterus to the groin region. Keep your movements slow and gradual to avoid this.
Swollen ankles which can be relieved with slight elevation of legs. This should not be confused with swelling that occurs in hypertensive pregnancy, which requires serious attention and management.
Mood Swings can be commonly experienced during pregnancy. One of the culprits of this is an increase in Estrogen and Progesterone levels.
It is normal to feel some stress and anxiety as you go through these changes. Talk to your partner, family and friends about your feelings and take each day at a time. A 10-15 mins of exercising will also help with your mood and wellbeing.
It is recommended that you speak to your doctor if you experience any unpleasant symptoms or strong discomfort from these changes in your body.