The miraculous process of growing a baby produces some pretty big changes in a woman’s body, most notably the size of her tummy. But there are some other pretty amazing changes a pregnant woman’s body undergoes that aren’t quite so obvious, though you may start to wonder what exactly happened to some standard bodily functions like breathing.
Here are 9 fascinating ways your body changes during pregnancy that you should know about.
Almost as soon as you conceive, your body begins to produce more blood. This extra blood is needed to carry oxygen and nutrients to your baby. Over the course of your pregnancy, your blood volume will increase by 30 to 50%.
Your heart will pump blood faster and harder to keep up with all that extra blood you're producing at the beginning of your pregnancy, and this extra work can cause those common first-trimester symptoms of fatigue, dizziness and headaches. While you’ll continue to increase your blood volume throughout your pregnancy, production will slow by the end of your first trimester.
This increased blood and blood flow can cause some noticeable annoyances during pregnancy, such as:
You may notice that your skin starts to get darker in certain areas or even changes colors completely. Many pregnant women find that their nipples turn brown, or they have a brown line (called a linea nigra) that runs straight from their belly button down their lower stomach. You can thank pregnancy hormones for both of these color changes (and possibly others).
You may also notice that your vagina turns a shade of blue or purple. While that may seem really alarming, it’s actually very normal. Since you have more blood pumping through your body and your veins are close to the surface of your skin in your genital area, you’re more apt to notice a color change there.
Rest assured that all of these skin color changes go back to normal within a few weeks after childbirth.
In an effort to ensure that your baby gets as many of the nutrients that pass through your body as possible and because your uterus is pushing your other organs out of the way, your body slows down its digestive system during pregnancy. While this is great for your baby, it can sometimes cause problems for you, specifically heartburn and constipation.
Your body also processes urine more slowly. That, combined with the additional weight of your uterus on your bladder, makes you more susceptible to urinary tract infections. Making sure that you drink a lot of water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and exercise daily can help with some of these problems.
Your body needs to carry oxygen to your baby, as well as remove that extra carbon dioxide. To account for these needs, your lungs become more efficient—increasing in capacity and taking in 30 to 40% more air with each breath.
Despite this increased capacity, you may feel short of breath due to a squashed diaphragm that causes you to breathe faster than usual. But don’t worry—you and your baby will still be getting plenty of oxygen thanks to your lungs’ super efficiency and extra capacity, which will stretch your rib cage 2 to 3 inches during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called “relaxin” that does just as it sounds. As your body prepares for your baby’s arrival, your hips start widening, and the ligaments that support your abdomen loosen up.
While this is all necessary preparation for childbirth, the overall loosening of your ligaments and joints can cause some discomfort—round ligament pain is a common complaint for pregnant women, and back pain can also cause problems (especially during labor). Appropriate exercise may help relieve these pains, so talk to your doctor if you’re having back pain.
Your body temperature tends to go up during ovulation each month. But for a lot of women, it stays up during pregnancy. The heat can come in waves or flashes, or it can feel more continual. Either way, if you find yourself cranking the thermostat way down while your partner piles on the blankets, you’re not alone.
Forget to bring your wallet to the store? Run a stop sign without even realizing it? Stick your mail in the freezer?
The amount of strange and brainless things that happen during pregnancy can be maddening (and hopefully funny later).
According to one study on memory impairment in pregnant women, about 80% of pregnant women feel like their brains have walked off and left them. Experts don’t know exactly why this happens, but it’s definitely a real thing.
Fortunately, this should also dissipate after childbirth.
Some hair growth can be positive, like the extra thick hair on your head. But other types of hair growth can be more embarrassing, annoying and unwanted.
The extra hair you experience is from the increase in estrogen production during pregnancy. Again, it won’t be like this for long. After your hormones get back to normal postpartum (after birth), so will the amount of hair growing on your body.
Sometimes in early pregnancy, with all of the nausea and tiredness, women have little-to-no sex drive. Not to worry, though, because in the second and third trimesters, many pregnant women experience a big boost in their sex drive.
That increased blood flow we talked about earlier actually helps in this case to make sex more pleasurable for pregnant women. And many women find sex to be a lot less stressful during pregnancy because they aren’t worried about conception at all.
It can be difficult to watch your body go through so many changes, especially when it’s your first pregnancy. If you’re experiencing bodily changes during pregnancy that are concerning to you, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk with your OB-GYN about them.
At All About Women, our physicians and midwives are here to help you understand and troubleshoot all the changes in pregnancy. Contact our Lake City or Gainesville office today to schedule your first appointment, or continue reading on our Knowledge Center to learn more about the joys and challenges of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.