In addition to the obvious physical changes as your belly grows during pregnancy, what other surprises may your body have in store for you? Pregnancy is an exciting time, but often one filled with many questions — is my baby healthy, can I do this/eat that, and what the heck is happening to my body?
During your first trimester, you’ll probably feel tired, perhaps more tired than you’ve ever felt before. Get as much rest as you can. About 70 percent of women will also experience nausea or vomiting during their first trimester. Eating a balanced diet of bland foods can help. A great over-the-counter combination that has proven effective and safe in controlling nausea and vomiting is taking Unisom (or a generic version) and vitamin B6 before you go to sleep at night.
You may also experience in an increase in urinary frequency during the first trimester. This is caused by the increased progesterone in your body.. Throughout your pregnancy, you may experience heartburn, constipation and/or hemorrhoids, also caused by the increase in progesterone early in your pregnancy and the pressure from the baby later in your pregnancy. Drink lots of water and eat a high fiber, bland diet. Stay away from garlic and acidic foods like tomatoes. Over-the-counter antacids can help with the symptom relief.
You’ll see changes to your hair and skin. While you are pregnant, you lose less hair, giving you a wonderful, full head of hair. After pregnancy, you’ll start to lose that hair, but don’t be alarmed when it seems like you are losing a lot of hair. It’s just your body catching up. You’ll get back to where you started eventually. During pregnancy, your skin is more sensitive to sun, so be sure to protect yourself with sunscreen and a hat. Some women also experience acne. Unfortunately, other than good hygiene, there’s not much you can do for acne during pregnancy.
Some women, particularly those with darker complexions, also get what’s referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.” The dark splotches that can appear on your upper lip, nose, cheekbones, forehead and jawline are caused by an increased production of melanin during pregnancy. Increased melanin can also cause what is called linea negra — a dark line that appears from the belly button to the pubic bone.
The second trimester is probably the favorite time of pregnancy for most women — you feel good, your energy levels are higher, and you can feel the baby start moving. Some women also experience an increased sex drive.
As your pregnancy progresses, your joints will start to loosen as your body prepares for childbirth. This can cause joint pain, especially in your back. Treat the pain with acetaminophen, a heating pad and gentle stretching or yoga. Pregnancy belts, which are sold in many maternity stores, can also help.
Your feet and ankles may begin to swell as well. Compression stockings can help them feel less tired. If you also have swelling in areas of your body not related to gravity (like your arms or face), call your doctor, as that could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
Two other body changes you may experience are closely tied to genetics — varicose veins and stretch marks. Whether or not you get stretch marks depends on how much collagen you have in your skin. No expensive lotion or cream will change the amount of collagen or your likelihood of avoiding stretch marks. Because your blood volume increases by 20 percent during pregnancy, varicose veins are not uncommon. Compression stockings and avoiding standing for long periods of time can help.
You will certainly experience a wide range of physical changes during your pregnancy. Some are more pleasant than others, but always remember that your body is doing the amazing job of growing another life.
Take the next step:
- Learn more about pregnancy and childbirth at University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.
- Read other pregnancy related posts on this blog.
Dr. Helen Kang Morgan is an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Michigan’s Women’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. Dr. Morgan sees patients at the University of Michigan’s Canton Health Center and East Ann Arbor Health and Geriatrics Center.
University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital opened in December 2011, offering women a state-of-the-art place to welcome their babies to the world in the most caring and comfortable way possible. From private rooms to birthing tubs, each feature was designed around mom and baby’s every need. Learn more at www.UofMhealth.org/birthcenter.