body changes in pregnancy
Health

Body changes in pregnancy

Everyone expects pregnancy to bring an expanding waistline.
But many women are surprised by the other body changes that pop up. Get the low-down on stretch marks, weight gain, heartburn and other ‘joys’ of pregnancy. Find out what you can do to feel better.

The mumsonline complete guide to body changes in pregnancy

Your entire body will be affected by pregnancy, and the majority of those changes will be directly related to pregnancy hormones like relaxin, oestrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as hCG.

Did you know that your body is growing a new organ, the placenta – to deliver nutrients to your developing baby? The placenta, the only temporary organ, is also an endocrine organ, secreting the hormones necessary for pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding.
This surge of natural chemicals is responsible for many changes. Some, like fuller breasts and thicker, shinier hair – may be welcome. Others may not make you so happy, but don’t worry; most of the changes will go away once your baby is born.

The majority of women will experience at least some of the following signs and symptoms of pregnancy:

Body aches

As your uterus expands, you may feel aches and pains in the back, abdomen, groin area, and thighs. Many women also have backaches and aching near the pelvic bone due to the pressure of the baby’s head, increased weight, and loosening joints. Some pregnant women complain of pain that runs from the lower back, down the back of one leg, to the knee or foot. This is called sciatica. It is thought to occur when the uterus puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.

What might help:

  •  Lie down.
  • Rest.
  • Apply heat.

If the pain does not get better, visit your GP.

Breast changes

A woman’s breasts increase in size and fullness during pregnancy. As the due date approaches, hormone changes will cause your breasts to get even bigger to prepare for breastfeeding. Your breasts may feel full, heavy, or tender. In the third trimester, some pregnant women begin to leak colostrum from their breasts.

body changes

Colostrum is the first milk that your breasts produce for the baby. It is a thick, yellowish fluid containing antibodies that protect newborns from infection.

What might help:

  • Wear a maternity bra with good
    support.
  • Put pads in bra to absorb leakage.
    When to visit your GP

Tell your doctor if you feel a lump or have nipple changes or discharge (that is not colostrum) or skin changes.

Constipation

Many pregnant women complain of constipation. Signs of constipation include having hard, dry stools; fewer than three bowel movements per week; and painful bowel movements. Higher levels of hormones due to pregnancy slow down digestion and relax muscles in the bowels leaving many women constipated. Plus, the pressure of the expanding uterus on the bowels can contribute to constipation.

What might help:

  • Drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily.
  • Don’t drink caffeine.
  • Eat fibre-rich foods, such as fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain cereals and breads.
  • Try mild physical activity, e.g. a short walk.

Tell your doctor if constipation does not go away.

Heartburn and indigestion

Hormones and the pressure of the growing uterus cause indigestion and heartburn. Pregnancy hormones slow down the muscles of the digestive tract, so food tends to move more slowly and digestion is sluggish. This causes many pregnant women to feel bloated. Hormones also relax the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach. This allows food and acids to come back up from the stomach to the oesophagus. The food and acid causes the burning feeling of heartburn.

As your baby gets bigger, the uterus pushes on the stomach making heartburn more common in later pregnancy.

What might help:

  • Eat several small meals instead of three large
    meals — eat slowly.
  • Drink fluids between meals — not with meals.
  • Don’t eat greasy and fried foods.
  • Avoid citrus fruits or juices and spicy foods.
  • Do not eat or drink within a few hours of
    bedtime.
  • Do not lie down right after meals.

If your symptoms don’t improve after trying these suggestions, ask your doctor about using an antacid.

Haemorrhoids

Haemorrhoids are swollen and bulging veins in the rectum. They can cause itching, pain, and bleeding. Up to 50% of pregnant women get
hemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids are common during pregnancy for many reasons. During pregnancy blood volume increases greatly, which can cause veins to enlarge. The expanding uterus also puts pressure on the veins in the rectum.

Plus, constipation can worsen hemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids usually improve after delivery.

What might help:

  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Eat fibre-rich foods, like whole grains, raw or
    cooked leafy green vegetables, and fruits.
  • Try not to strain with bowel movements.
  • Talk to your doctor about using products such
    as witch hazel to soothe haemorrhoids.

Itching

About 20%of pregnant women feel itchy during pregnancy. Usually women feel itchy in the abdomen. But red, itchy palms and soles of the feet are also common complaints. Pregnancy hormones and stretching skin are probably to blame for most of your discomfort. Usually the itchy feeling goes away after delivery.

What might help:

  • Use gentle soaps and moisturizing creams.
  • Avoid hot showers and baths.
  • Avoid itchy fabrics.

If the symptoms don’t improve after a week of
self-care, visit your GP.

Morning sickness

In the first trimester hormone changes can cause nausea and vomiting. This is called ‘morning sickness,’ although it can occur at any time of day. Morning sickness usually tapers off by the second trimester.

body changes

What might help:

  • Eat several small meals instead of three
    large meals to keep your stomach from being
    empty.
  • Don’t lie down after meals.
  • Eat dry toast, plain crackers, or dry cereals
    before getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Eat bland foods that are low in fat and
    easy to digest, such as cereal, rice, and
    bananas.
  • Sip on water, weak tea, or clear soft drinks.
    Or eat small blocks of ice.
  • Avoid smells that upset your stomach.

If you have flu-like symptoms,  and you have severe, constant nausea and/or vomiting several times every day, it may signal a more serious condition. Visit your GP.

Swelling

Many women develop mild swelling in the face, hands, or ankles at some point in their pregnancies. As the due date approaches, swelling often becomes more noticeable.

What might help:

  • Drink eight to 10 glasses of fluids daily.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or eat salty foods.
  • Rest and elevate your feet.
  • Ask your doctor about support hose.

If your hands or feet swell suddenly or you rapidly
gain weight – it may be preeclampsia and you should immediately visit your GP.

Stay healthy during pregnancy

Though many of these changes are inevitable, others may be
prevented or minimised by staying on top of your health throughout pregnancy. This means making smart decisions when it comes to the food and drink you put into your body and the types of activities you engage in while you’re pregnant.

  • For example, although stretch marks may be unavoidable,
    they may be reduced by gaining pregnancy pounds slowly and steadily, using topical creams such as cocoa butter and staying hydrated.
  • Also, eating regular, small meals throughout the day may help control morning sickness early in your pregnancy and heartburn in the final months. Staying hydrated and eating fiber-rich foods can minimise constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • Another good habit to keep up during pregnancy is the practice of good dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, and visits to your dental professional for regular check-ups and cleaning.
  • Pregnancy is a busy, exciting time, but don’t skip visits with any of your health care professionals. And be sure to alert them to any changes you notice in your body.
  • Pregnancy will affect every aspect of your body, but
    relax—it’s only temporary!

More you might like:

Top 12 body changes in pregnancy
Worrying pregnancy symptoms
How to treat heartburn

ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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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.