Body Changes During Pregnancy
With all the hormonal changes going on, it's hardly surprising that you will notice changes in your body during pregnancy, apart from your growing bump.
If you are lucky, you will experience a ‘pregnancy glow’, but not all women do. You may display more unwelcoming changes and it is important to remember that most of these disappear once you have given birth.
Morning sickness and nausea
This usually starts around week 6, and should improve around weeks 12-14. However, this is not guaranteed and you may feel nauseous and prone to vomiting for longer than this. Unfortunately ‘morning’ is a misnomer – it is by no means limited to the early part of the day! Around 80% of pregnant women suffer from pregnancy sickness and many find that eating little and often, keeping hydrated, ginger biscuits or tea, and acupressure wristbands can help. However, if you can not keep anything down and are losing weight, do seek help from a health professional.
Skin changes during pregnancy
You may find that your skin is oily and breaking out in spots – or you may find that your skin becomes dry and itchy. This is normal – but if your skin is intensely itchy over large patches do mention it to your GP or midwife, as it could be a very rare liver condition called obstetric cholestasis. ‘Pregnancy mask’ (chloasma) is the appearance of dark patches on the face and neck of light skinned women, and lighter patches on darker skinned women, and appears in around half of pregnancies. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun, as this will make them worse. These usually disappear after the birth.
Ok, so first the statistic bit…. 9 out of 10 women get stretch marks during pregnancy so the chances are you may get a few.
Stretch marks are narrow lines that develop on the surface of your skin, most often seen on your tummy, buttocks and thighs. Your body is changing to accommodate your baby so, you should expect a few physical changes. There are studies that show that if a close family relative (i.e. your mother) has stretch marks, then you may be more likely to get them yourself. Stretch marks can be red or purple when they first appear, this is absolutely normal. When you skin contracts again you should expect for the stretch marks to eventually go a silvery white colour. There are several things you can do to soothe and moisturise your body during pregnancy.
There is no magic way to prevent stretch marks, although it is sensible to try to gain weight steadily and slowly, take regular gentle exercise and eat healthily. Creams, gels and lotions can all be used to treat stretch marks, massage in to the affected area using circular motions, always lifting towards the heart when massaging as this will increase circulation and relieve the area. Laser and cosmetic surgery is also available (at a cost!).
Your gums will soften during pregnancy, and so are more liable to become infected and bleed. In the UK women are entitled to free NHS dental treatment all through their pregnancy and for a year after the birth of their baby, so make sure you take advantage of this!
As soon as you're pregnant, your breasts begin to change and are preparing for feeding your baby.
During pregnancy your breasts are going to change and after birth they are going to be different too. Early on in your pregnancy your nipples become tender and your breasts may even swell – this is sometimes a sign people use to recognise pregnancy.
Later on in your pregnancy your nipples will become darker, the reason for this is when your baby is born they only see in black and white.The nipple appearing darker makes it easier for them to find the nipple whist breastfeeding.
Tiny bumps will also appear around the areola and they will start to produce an oily substance designed to cleanse and protect your nipples whilst you breastfed. The oily substance will have an instinctive smell that your baby will be attracted to, directing them towards your nipple.
When your baby is born your breasts will have increased a couple of cup sizes, this is due to the growth of glandular tissue which can double in size during pregnancy. Every woman is different in this case, some breasts will grow bigger than others but this shouldn’t worry you, as you’ll be able to produce milk no matter what your breast size is.
Your very first milk may not look too appetising to you with its creamy consistency and yellow tinge but this is the most important milk for your baby. Colostrum is very concentrated with high protein, low fat and healthy antibodies and is all your baby will need in the first three days of their life. Colostrum gives your baby all the immunity and nutrients they need in their first few days in our world.
Around three days after birth is when your “normal” breast milk will start to be produced instead of colostrum, our breasts may feel heavier and fuller around this time.
One thing about being pregnant which a lot of people forget about is leaking breasts, some mums will start leaking breast milk before they give birth. When this will happen varies from mum to mum, it could happen early on in your pregnancy or just before your due date, either way it is completely normal. Some mums even find that only one breast leaks and not the other!
The substance leaking from your breasts will be the concentrated milk known as colostrum, no matter how much you leak it will not affect the amount of milk you produce once your baby has been born.
Depending on the amount of milk your breasts are leaking, you can either use a breast pad, just make sure you regularly change them. If it’s only a small amount a tissue down your bra is fine to use.
If at any point you notice any blood in your leaking milk, you should speak to your GP or midwife.
During pregnancy your breasts can double in size in turn this can also cause stretch marks on your breasts. Stretch marks are very dependent on skin type, some people’s skin is more elastic than others and some mums may not experience stretch marks at all.
You may have already experienced stretch marks growing up, during puberty, hence you’ll know that stretch marks can appear angry and read to start with but they will fade over time.
Be sure to keep the skin of your breasts soft and supple, moisturiser regularly or alternatively use a specilaised oil for prevention and treatment of stretch marks.
Dizziness is normal when getting up, make sure you take things slowly
A normal symptom of pregnancy is dizziness especially in the first trimester of your pregnancy. It is a possibility to occur throughout your whole pregnancy.
The reason dizziness happens is the increase of hormones in your body, these hormones cause your blood vessels to widen, increasing blood flow to your baby. However because of this it slows down the flow of blood reaching you, causing your blood pressure to lower and the side effect of low blood pressure is dizziness.
Other causes can be if you’re anaemic or have varicose veins, these can both cause dizziness. Having a low blood sugar is another cause, this traditionally happens because your body is trying to adapt to the change in your metabolism.
Later on in your pregnancy if you are still experiencing dizziness this could be caused by your uterus putting pressure on blood vessels or if you’re on your back the weight of the baby can press on certain veins.
There are a number of things you can do to try and prevent dizziness, here are a few ideas:
- When standing up, always do it slowly.
- Once you reach your second trimester try not to lie on your back as this is when the weight can press on certain veins.
- Try not to stand for long periods of time or if you have to, try and keep moving.
- Make sure you are eating regularly with lots of iron rich foods and not leaving long gaps between your meals.
- Finally try to avoid hot showers or baths
- If at any point your dizziness makes you feel faint, lie down and take some deep breaths and make sure you are not too hot by opening the windows.
If your dizziness is giving you palpitations, headaches or blurred vision this could be an underlying symptom of anaemia, which can have an effect on your pregnancy. At this point you need to contact your GP or midwife.
If at any point you are feeling dizzy and you have any abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding you need to contact your local hospital as this can be a sign of placental abruption, a low–lying placenta or an ectopic pregnancy.
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