pregnancy body changes
Health

12 pregnancy body changes

Morning sickness, tender breasts, and wild hormones? That’s just scratching the surface! Find out what physical changes and symptoms you may experience when pregnant in our rundown of the top 12 pregnancy body changes – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…

Pregnancy body changes – The Good

1. Thicker, shinier hair

Those hormones responsible for unpleasant symptoms could also make your hair thicker and shinier, and some mums-to-be find theirs grows faster than it used to.

2. Nail growth

Increases in blood pressure and hormone levels may speed up fingernail growth, finally giving you the French-manicureworthy talons you’ve always dreamed of. Prenatal vitamins may also help encourage faster growth.

3. Bigger breasts

Even before you took a pregnancy test, your breasts probably started changing (and becoming quite painful) to prep for feeding baby. As your milk ducts grow and fill with milk, your breasts will get noticeably bigger.

4. Glowing skin

While you’re pregnant, the amount of blood in your body will increase by 50%. The extra blood ends up showing through the skin in many areas, particularly the cheeks. On top of this, hormones cause the oil glands to become more active, resulting in a softer, shinier appearance. When the increased blood flow combines with shine, the result is a noticeable glow.

Pregnancy body changes – The Bad

 

5. Fatigue

Being tired is common during pregnancy. Most women feel tired the first few months, then again towards the end. Exercise, rest, and proper diet can make you feel less tired. It may also help to take a cat nap every day (if you can).

6. Problems with urination

Early on in the pregnancy, you will likely be making more trips to the bathroom. As your uterus grows and rises higher in your abdomen, the feeling may improve. Even so, you will continue to urinate more throughout pregnancy. That means that you also need to drink more water during pregnancy, and you may find that you are thirstier than when you are not pregnant.

pregnancy body changes

As you get closer to delivery and your baby drops lower into your pelvis, you will need to pee much more, and the amount of urine passed at one time will be less (the bladder holds less due to pressure from the baby). If you have pain when you urinate or a change in urine odour or colour, call your GP or midwife. These could be signs of a bladder infection. Some pregnant women also leak urine when they cough or sneeze. For most women, this goes away after the baby is born. If this happens to you, start doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor.

7. Constipation

Having a hard time moving the bowels is normal during pregnancy? Prenatal vitamins with the extra iron can cause constipation. Meanwhile, hormone changes during pregnancy slow down your digestive system. Later in your pregnancy, the pressure from your uterus on your rectum may also worsen the problem.

You can ease constipation by:

  • Eating raw fruits and vegetables, such as prunes, to get extra fibre.
  • Eating whole grain or bran cereals for more fibre.
  • Drinking plenty of water (eight glasses daily).
  • Asking your doctor about a stool softener. Avoid laxatives during pregnancy.

8. Nosebleeds and bleeding gums

Some women have nose and gum bleeding while they are pregnant. This is because the tissues in their nose and gums get dry, and the blood vessels dilate and are closer to the surface. You can avoid or reduce this bleeding by:

  • Drinking lots of fluids.
  • Getting lots of vitamin C, from orange juice or other fruits and juices.
  • Using a humidifier (a device that puts water in the air) to decrease dryness of the nose or sinuses.
  • Brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush to decrease bleeding gums.
  • Maintaining good dental hygiene and using floss every day to keep your gums healthy.

9. Heartburn

While you are pregnant, food stays in the stomach and bowels longer. This may cause heartburn (stomach acid moving back up into the oesophagus.

You can reduce heartburn by:

  • Eating small meals.
  • Avoiding spicy and greasy foods.
  • Not drinking large amounts of liquid before bedtime.
  • Not exercising for at least two hours after you eat.
  • Not lying down flat right after a meal.
  • If you continue to have heartburn, talk to your health care provider about medicines that can help.

10. Varicose veins, and haemorrhoids

Swelling in your legs is common. You may see more swelling as you get closer to giving birth. The swelling is caused by your uterus pressing on the veins. You may also notice the veins in your lower body become larger. In the legs, these are called varicose veins. You may also have veins close to your vulva and vagina that swell. In your rectum, veins that swell are called haemorrhoids.

To reduce swelling:

  • Raise your legs and rest your feet on a surface higher than your stomach.
  • Lie on your side in bed.
  • Wear support tights or socks.
  • Limit salty foods. Salt works like a sponge and makes your body hold more water.
  • Try not to strain during bowel movements. This can worsen haemorrhoids.

Pregnancy body changes – The Ugly

11. Excessive nausea and vomiting

It’s normal to have some nausea and vomiting during your first trimester. Most pregnant women go through that. But if it’s severe or makes you dehydrated, that’s something to heed. If you can’t keep any water or fluids down for more than 12 hours, call your doctor. Vomiting that interferes with your day-to-day activities can lead to weightloss, dizziness, dehydration, and an imbalance of electrolytes.

What to do: Tell your doctor. You may need hospitalisation to treat the dehydration, and many medications are available to control nausea.

12. Breathing problems

Some women feel short of breath at times while they are pregnant. It happens more often in the early part of the pregnancy, and again toward the end.

At first, pregnancy hormones can make you breathe more deeply. This might make you feel like you’re working harder to get air. You may get short of breath again in the later weeks of pregnancy. This is because the uterus takes up so much room that the lungs do not have as much room to expand as before. It’s also easy to hyperventilate (breathe too fast) when you’re pregnant. If you notice your lips and fingers feeling tingly, try to slow down your breathing and relax.

A week or two before delivery, the baby drops lower as it is getting ready to move through the birth canal. At that point, the shortness of breath may go away.

Other things that may help include:

  • Sitting up straight
  • Sleeping propped up on a pillow
  • Resting when you feel short of breath
  • Moving at a slower pace If you suddenly have a hard time breathing and that is unusual for you, you should see your doctor right away or go to the emergency room.

Don’t be too depressed after reading the list – soon you’ll have a precious bundle in your arms and all will be forgotten. Now go and read numbers 1 – 4 again!

More like this:

More pregnancy body changes
How to treat heartburn
Pregnancy body changes – your skin

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.