Pregnancy and Your Body

The moment you conceive a child your body begins to change. It has to in order to become the safe haven that the baby needs to grow. While the changes can be difficult, they are normal and usually nothing to worry about. You’ll notice different changes for each trimester. Some will be unmistakable, such as the cessation of menstruation, while others are more subtle, coming on slowly over the course of a few days or weeks. The key to taking the new developments in your body in stride, is to understand which changes may occur and when. This makes things much easier. With that in mind, we’ll start with the first trimester.

The first trimester can be the most difficult when it comes to coping with the changes, simply because you’re not used to being pregnant and you may not know you are pregnant. Your body just starts to change and you’re not sure why. The first sure sign of pregnancy is a missed period, although you may experience pregnancy symptoms before this. You can’t be sure of pregnancy until the cessation of the period or until a test confirms it.

Morning sickness develops during the first trimester, usually about the six week mark. It can occur anytime, day, night, evening, even three o’clock in the morning, so don’t be fooled by the name. It is misleading.

Your breasts may begin to change in the first trimester. The areola (the darkened skin around the nipple) often gets darker or increases in size. The breasts may also feel swollen and tender. This is entirely common. They, like the rest of your body, have to prepare for the upcoming arrival.

A few more common changes during the first trimester include fatigue, constipation, frequent urination, food cravings, mood swings, weight gain, and some women even experience allergies, though they don’t when they’re not pregnant. These are all very normal, very understandable changes for women. If you experience any of them, don’t worry. You are a normal woman. The first trimester lasts until the twelfth week. After that, you’re one third of the way through your pregnancy and are in your second trimester.

The second trimester is more fun than the first. This is when the pregnancy begins to feel real and you begin to feel pregnant, rather than just fat. After about the twelfth week your pregnancy will begin to show. You may not need maternity just yet, but don’t be surprised if you have a noticeable bump where your normally flat stomach is. Welcome it. That bump is your baby.

Around the sixteen week mark you should be able to feel ‘quickening’ in your stomach. This is the baby’s movements. If you know what you’re looking for you can feel the movement as early as twelve weeks, but it’s very faint. You can expect to feel your baby at sixteen weeks.

Because the baby is getting so big and growing rapidly every day, your body is going to experience some dramatic physical changes. First, the size of your belly will increase. This may cause the skin on your stomach to become dry and you may notice stretch marks on your stomach, legs, and even your behind. Aches and pains will probably increase during this time. Back aches and leg cramps are common, although if you have the proper nutrients some of these can be avoided. You’ll notice changes inside your body as well. Your organs have to function with less room so chances are you’ll experience gas pains, indigestion, heartburn, and continued constipation.

If your breasts didn’t increase in size during the first trimester, they probably will during the second. You may also be able to secrete colostrum, the substance baby will feed on for the first couple of days, from your breasts. This is normal, they’re simply preparing to nurse baby.

Aside from the physical changes of pregnancy, you’ll be dealing with a lot of hormonal changes as well. This is part of the reason pregnant women experience mood swings. They’re hormones are changing and that can be difficult. Common changes due to hormones include changes in the skin or hair, development of a dark line vertically placed on your stomach stretching from the naval to your pubic area, and of a pregnancy mask, which is a darker area on your face. These are hormonal changes and they will go away sometime after the birth.

The last thing many women begin to experience during the second trimester is a slight swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, and face. This is completely common and often caused by water retention. To relieve it simply put your feet up or sit down and rest for a while.

The third trimester is the hardest simply because this is when many women grow impatient. They’re sick of the changes, sick of the lack of sleep, and really just want their body back. Who can blame them? It can be difficult carrying around an extra thirty pounds. By this time, however, the changes are beginning to slack off. The most common ones that occur are due to the size of the baby. Increased back aches, shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, more fetal movement, and a nice round stomach are all part of the process. Groin pain is also common, usually caused from the pressure of the weight of the baby resting on the bones in that area. Sometime during this trimester you may notice Braxton Hicks. These are light contractions that prepare your body for labor and birth. While some women dislike them, they often do some of the work before labor really starts, so the end process goes faster. They can make things easier.

Now, these are the changes that are common and normal during pregnancy. Don’t worry about them. However, some changes occur that shouldn’t. You should consult your doctor if they do. These changes include burning or pain during urination, vaginal spotting or bleeding, extremely reduced fetal movement, no fetal movement for a twenty-four hour period, severe abdominal pain, severe nausea, a hot, red, painful area behind your knee or calf, vision problems, severe swelling of fingers, eyes, face, and toes, fever above 100 degrees, vaginal gushes or leaks, vaginal blisters, severe headaches, dizziness, and uterine contractions. That’s a lot to be aware of, but most women don’t experience any of them. A good rule to follow is that if it seems like it shouldn’t be happening, it probably shouldn’t. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about anything that seems out of place.

The last thing to remember is that, though there seem to be a million side effects to pregnancy, you probably won’t experience all of them. The changes mentioned above are common, yes, but most women only experience some of them. Many, many women never have a day of morning sickness, never experience Braxton Hicks, and never feel an ounce of heartburn. The key is to be aware of the possible changes so if they occur you won’t be caught of guard. Pregnancy is absolutely amazing. It can be difficult and it changes your body, but there’s nothing quite like feeling that little person grow inside you. In the end, it will be worth it.