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All the Effects and Changes a Woman's Body Experiences During Pregnancy

Besides a growing belly, a woman’s body endures a lot during pregnancy. While some changes present themselves physically, others remain hidden, resulting in various effects spanning from hormonal to emotional shifts. 

From the initial conception to the birth of your child, we have compiled here an extensive list of experiences that may resonate with you throughout your pregnancy. Find out what they are below, and remember, that each experience is a part of the incredible journey of bringing new life into the world!

Physical, Hormonal, Emotional and Other Changes

How the maternal body responds to welcoming a child is remarkable. Jordan Cater, a PhD candidate at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) in Australia, likens the woman’s body to a system that is continuously being tested. This constant pressure includes a set of biological changes that evolve into an onslaught of physical and emotional reactions. 

On one hand, the heart works up to 50 percent harder, steadily increasing blood volume and causing symptoms such as swelling, visible veins and palpitations; and on the other, the relentless production of oestrogen and progesterone triggers nausea, breast tenderness and even digestive changes. Over the course of nine months, the collective transformation spurred by these effects all prepare for the baby’s arrival. That said, it’s important that expectant mothers receive plenty of care and rest during this action-packed period of gestation. 

Morning Sickness

One of the most well-known symptoms associated with pregnancy is nausea and vomiting. Though coined as “morning sickness”, this phenomenon can actually be experienced at any time of the day, and last beyond the first trimester of pregnancy. A sharp increase in hormones and low blood sugar are attributed as causes of morning sickness.

Feeling Faint or Dizzy 

Likewise, the same hormonal fluctuations and a drop in blood pressure can lead to dizziness or fainting. In some cases, as the uterus expands, it can also apply  pressure on the vena cava (the vein that carries blood back to the heart), potentially reducing blood flow to the brain. Exercise caution to prevent falls and accidents, such as by standing or sitting up slowly, when feeling lightheaded. While commonly acknowledged as a typical symptom of pregnancy, it’s crucial to consult your doctor if you’re uncertain or experiencing symptoms that interfere with your daily activities.

Fatigue

Fatigue is prevalent in newly expecting mothers because their bodies are working overtime to adjust to new changes, particularly the development of the foetus. Moreover, lowered blood pressure and blood sugar can also contribute to feeling more tired than usual.

Swelling

A large number of women experience swelling in the limbs, particularly in the ankles and feet, when expecting. Known as edema, this condition is due to fluid retention caused by the baby’s growth and hormonal changes that soften the walls of veins

Tender and Bigger Breasts

Breasts can start to feel sensitive as early as the first week of pregnancy. Towards the second trimester, this sensation progresses into a feeling of heaviness, alongside an increase in cup size of one or more. This can also be accompanied by the secretion of colostrum, a pale substance that is actually breast milk (sop up leaking milk and eliminate moisture and discomfort with breast pads!). The third trimester is when nipples begin to enlarge and darken significantly in preparation for breastfeeding. Nipple cream, such as the Nipple Care Cream by Pigeon, can help to soothe dry and sensitive nipples.

Constipation

A variety of factors during pregnancy can induce constipation, including a gastrointestinal slowdown, prenatal supplements prescribed by doctors and increased pressure on your bowel. Severe constipation can also contribute to haemorrhoids. Consider hydrating regularly, eating lots of fibre and getting advice from your doctor regarding stool softeners and alternative vitamins to mitigate these issues.

Heartburn

Heartburn, otherwise known as acid reflux, happens when food and stomach acids flow back up into the oesophagus. This is a relatively common occurrence during pregnancy, as the hormones inadvertently relax the esophageal muscles that keep it properly closed. Moreover, changes in body shape due to the pressure inflicted by the growing baby can exacerbate this condition. 

Hair Thickening

Finally, a pregnancy side effect in our favour! The surge in hormones experienced by expectant mothers can also result in the growth of thick and luscious locks. Not only does your hair grow faster during this period, but it also sheds much less. Some women may also notice hair growth in unexpected areas, such as on the face and belly

Mood Swings

The emotional toll that women undergo throughout these nine months is not to be underestimated. The dramatic increases in oestrogen and progesterone affect the level of neurotransmitters within the brain responsible for regulating moods. Additionally, fatigue, worries, nausea, and other related pregnancy symptoms can all intensify mood swings.  

Balance and Posture

Many pregnant women feel the brunt of actively growing a baby in their backs. While one of the immediate signs is an enlarging abdomen, this also affects the expectant mother’s posture. The weight and size of the bump tends to shift the centre of gravity, causing changes in the curvature of the back and her sense of stability. Be mindful of these changes to remain steady on your feet, paying extra attention to your movements and surroundings. Furthermore, consider investing in pillows that alleviate strain on your back, and wearing maternity accessories like a support belt to lighten your load. 

Stretch Marks and Freckles

Multiple skin changes occur as a mother prepares for the arrival of her baby. Stretch marks, for example, tend to manifest in areas such as the breasts, belly and thighs; and freckles, known as melasma, may appear around the face as a form of hyperpigmentation. While these conditions are not harmful, some mothers may experience itchiness with stretch marks or identify them as a significant cosmetic concern. Specialised creams can be used to treat irritation and make stretch marks less noticeable. 

Increased Body Temperature

A woman’s metabolic rate rises during pregnancy as a result of increased body mass and other physiological changes. This means that it’s easier to feel warmer and, at the same time, sweatier as the body tries to cool down. To accommodate basal temperature increases, maintain regular hydration and wear comfortable, breathable clothing, especially in hot and humid weather. 

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins, or varicosities, are visible and twisting veins that appear bluish under the skin. They are caused by a weakness in the walls and valves of veins and can sometimes feel a bit itchy and uncomfortable. Varicose veins typically surface in the later stages of pregnancy due to increased blood volume and the additional vascular pressure on the body, as well as the release of muscle-relaxing hormones. However, this condition often resolves after delivery.

Food Cravings and Aversions

The science behind pregnancy cravings and aversions is disputable but sources often cite these urges as the body’s way of communicating deficiencies. For example, a craving for oranges may suggest a need for vitamin C; while a craving for milk may point to an insufficient calcium intake. It is said that pregnancy cravings are at their strongest in the second trimester and dwindle by the third. Meanwhile, aversions can be intermittent and continue indefinitely

Frequent Urination

Surprisingly, increased blood flow is revealed to be the culprit behind more frequent trips to the loo! On top of that, urine leakage or stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is also a pregnancy-related occurrence reported by pregnant women, caused by extra stress on the bladder, urethra and pelvis. Such involuntary loss of urine is often triggered by sneezing, coughing, laughing and even walking.

Final Thoughts

We generally assume that parenting begins at the birth of a child, but pregnancy teaches us that protecting and nurturing a little one starts right from the moment one is pregnant. While everyone’s experience is different, studying the effects and changes pregnancy has on mothers (and fathers as well) makes it clear that the welfare of parents and children are often intertwined. 

mothercare is one of the most trusted maternity and baby retailers worldwide, with over 50 years of experience in providing top-tier baby-related products and services. Whether you are a newly minted expectant parent or have just welcomed a baby into your arms, we have the solutions to help streamline your mummy and daddy duties and strengthen the bond between you and your baby. 

Come, and experience the role we can play in your parenting journey by visiting our website or our experience stores at Tropicana Gardens Mall and Suria KLCC today!

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