How your body changes during pregnancy.

It is truly remarkable how a woman’s body adapts during pregnancy. The list of changes it undergoes is mind boggling. Some of these changes you may already be aware of, but we bet there are many that you haven’t got a clue are happening to you right now.

pregnant woman's tummy

So, if you want to know how your body changes during pregnancy then read on . . ..

Less expected changes that you may not notice

Heart changes

During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by 30 to 50 percent to nourish your growing baby, your heart pumps more blood each minute and your heart rate increases. Traditionally it has been thought that the heart rate of pregnant women increases by 20-30% (15-20 beats a minute) but recent research by Oxford University has found evidence that this is actually more likely to be just 7-8 beats (just a 10% rise). Either way, we think this makes the heart a pretty amazing muscle.

Some women find they feel dizzy when lying flat on their back during pregnancy. This is because the large blood vessel (vena cava) leading from the lower part of your body to your heart is compressed which can decrease blood flow to and from your heart, leading to a decline in blood pressure. If you experience this try lying on your left side – this is a much healthier position to sleep in too. And it’s best to avoid exercise that involves lying flat on your back after your first trimester.

Lung changes

Did you know that your body will increase the air it moves through your lungs by 30-50%? So, each breath you take has a greater volume of air and your breathing rate increases too. This results in higher blood oxygen levels, which you need as your body needs to consume more oxygen throughout pregnancy. You may find yourself out of breath sometimes as your pregnancy progresses – this is probably because your diaphragm gets squished as your uterus grows (pre pregnancy your uterus was the size of a pear – just imagine how big it needs to get to hold your little baby).

Body temperature changes

pregnant woman keeping cool with a fan

A slightly raised temperature can be one of the first signs of pregnancy. If you check as you go along, you’ll notice that this raise will stay until your baby is born. This is due to an increased metabolic rate and increased sweat gland activity and can lead to dehydration if you’re not careful. Dehydration can reduce the amount of blood available to your baby, so make sure you’ve always got a bottle of water at hand.  It’s especially important to keep an eye on dehydration during exercise and on those hot summer days that we’ve been experiencing lately.

Hormone changes

Your hormones play a key role throughout your pregnancy. Did you know that you’ll produce more oestrogen during this pregnancy than throughout the rest of your life when you’re not pregnant?

This clever hormone is important for maintaining, controlling and stimulating other pregnancy hormones, it aids the development of your baby’s vital organs, stimulates the growth of your placenta and plays a key role in the development of your milk ducts, which you’ll notice as your boobs start to grow in trimester 2.

From a very early stage in your pregnancy your progesterone levels increase too. Progesterone is vital to the establishment of pregnancy and it is the dominating hormone throughout your entire pregnancy. Early on it increases blood flow to your womb, which stimulates glands in its lining to produce much needed nutrients for your baby. And it plays a key role in helping you establish a placenta. Your progesterone levels will rise steadily throughout your pregnancy to aid your baby’s development, prevent the muscles of your womb contracting until labour, preventing lactation until your little one is born and strengthening pelvic wall muscles in preparation for labour.

A lesser known muscle, but just as important during pregnancy, is relaxin, this belongs to the insulin superfamily and is produced by the ovary and placenta to relax ligaments in the pelvis and soften and widen your cervix.

More noticeable changes to your body

There are many changes to your body during pregnancy that you can’t help not noticing, although you might not be prepared for some.

The most obvious is your growing bump of course.  Although everyone is different it’s helpful to know that on average, from 20 weeks onwards, a woman’s tummy will usually measure between 2cm either side of their gestational period.  So, if you’re 25 weeks pregnant your tummy will usually measure between 23 and 27cm.  Please be aware that this is not always the case and your midwife will keep an eye on this throughout your pregnancy.

Breast changes

You’ll be prepared for the increase is breast size as you begin to prepare to supply milk to your newborn, but you may not know that your areola might darken or that your boobs may become more tender. You could get darker veins appearing and you might even notice you leak small amounts of colostrum (a thick yellow substance).  This is all perfectly natural and your body’s way of producing and storing milk.

Hair and nail changes

child brushing pregnant woman's hair

Generally, nails start to grow quicker than usual at around week 20 of pregnancy – so make sure you have some nail files at home. They might seem a little drier and brittle though, so go carefully when filing.  Many women find their hair feels thicker and shinier too, whilst others find their hair texture changes – so straight hair might become curlier or visa versa. Like nails hair can grow more quickly during pregnancy – and this might not just be on your head!  You might notice little strands of hair in places you’d rather not see them, like your face, back, nipples or tummy. Don’t panic though – these usually disappear within the first six months of motherhood.

Skin changes

One of the changes to your body during pregnancy that everybody knows about are stretch marks. Up to ninety percent of women in pregnancy will get stretch marks, otherwise known as striae gravidarum.  These are caused by hormonal changes that affect the skin’s elasticity and the sheer about of pressure put on the skin as it stretches.  Stretch marks are permanent scars that start with tiny little micro tears (you might notice small red dots that tend to itch) and then as the skin stretches these will start to tear downwards at right angles to your body’s natural skin lines.  At first your stretch marks will be a pinkish purple colour but eventually they fade to a silvery white. 

Traditionally women have used creams gels and oils to prevent stretch marks, with very little effect. It has been proven that topical solutions alone cannot prevent the skin tearing (see the well renowned Cochrane Report for more information). The good news is that now there is a product to prevent stretch marks! 

secret saviours stretch mark prevention band kit

Secret Saviours has launched an innovative 3-step Stretch Mark Prevention System that is centred around a piece of clever textile technology.  Special pads in the underwear gently grip the skin, dissipating the pressure as it stretches, which prevents the little micro tears appearing. If any do start to tear the pattern in the pads prevents a stretch mark finding a straight path to travel down so they can’t form.

Accompanied by a Day Gel, to help the pads grip the skin, and a Night Cream, to nourish the skin and keep it supple, this new system has an 82% success rate.  Find out more here.

A few other changes to your body during pregnancy

You may find the colour of your moles and freckles change slightly, this is probably harmless but you should ask your doctor if worried. Dark patches may pop up too. This is known as hyper pigmentation. These patches usually disappear after birth but it’s best to keep applying sunscreen when you’re outside.

You might notice changes to your senses too.

Many pregnant women report different taste preferences, such as an increased desire for sugar and salt. This change can be one of the causes of morning sickness – why not read our past blog about ways to combat this.  You might also notice a heightened sense of smell but again, this is usually only temporary so embrace the new you for now!

pregnant woman holding her nose

So, you see, your body is truly amazing!  We hope we’ve helped answer how your body changes during pregnancy.  If you’ve noticed anything else, please let us know.