Physical changes during pregnancy – 15 most common body changes during pregnancy include breast changes, and maternal and physiological changes during pregnancy
Most of the common ailments during pregnancy are minor and can be relieved by simple changes in lifestyle.
As a result of tremendous changes occurring in the body, discomfort, muscle pulls, bleeding gums and cramps, are some of the accepted problems a pregnant woman is likely to encounter.
However some lucky women never face any problem at all. Consult your doctor if you are in doubt about your symptoms.
The 15 most common physical changes during pregnancy include the following:
With pregnancy it is common to develop a darkening of certain areas of the body, like the darkening of the nipple and areola; or the darkening of a line starting from below the navel and ending at the pubic hair; or the development of dark patches on the face.
These are cause by pregnancy hormones. These hormones tend to make skin cells containing dark pigment enlarge, so that any birth mark, freckles, moles or scars tend to become darker after the third month of pregnancy.
These changes mostly disappear after birth, but in some cases they remain. These are normal accompaniments of pregnancy and therefore no cause for worry.
Breasts often become tender and sensitive to touch in early pregnancy. The tenderness passes by middle-pregnancy.
The dark area around the nipple, the areole, gets darker. This is permanent change in most women.
Stretch marked on the breasts may occur in women with large, heavy or sagging breasts.
Hence in case of a dramatic increase in breast size, you must wear a well-fitting cotton bra, that supports the weight of the breasts. (A nylon bra tends to sag with the weight.) This will not only prevent stretch marks, but prevent sagging too.
These are dark, swollen veins that might appear on the legs during pregnancy, and sometimes remain forever afterwards.
The veins in the legs do the job of carrying impure blood back to the heart for purification. In some women with weak venous valves, the veins lessen their tone during pregnancy.
Due to this laxity they cannot push back the blood through the congested pelvic area, so that the blood tends to pool in the legs, causing the appearance of varicose veins.
To prevent their appearance, avoid standing for long period without moving. Do not cross your legs when sitting on a chair, since this reduces circulation in the leg.
Put your feet up on a stool whenever possible. At least once in the day, place your legs higher than your hips. Sit on a chair, put your feet on the table. Or, lying down on the floor, place your feet on a stool or low chari or bed. When sitting, write alphabets, A,B,C, etc, with your toes, in the air.
Teeth and Gums
During pregnancy the gums soften and are therefore more likely to catch infection and start bleeding. Infection in the gums can mean infection in the teeth also, and consequent tooth decay.
Plaque is a layer of bacteria that grows on gums and teeth. Bacteria in plaque thrive on the pieces of food stuck between the teeth, and feed on sugar.
If you eat a lot of sugary foods, you increase the amount of plaque in your mouth. If you eat less sugar, the bacteria will not get such a good chance to grow and multiply.
Plaque left on the teeth can eat into the enamel, which is the surface of the tooth. If this is continued, the tooth will keep on decaying until it affects the nerve inside, in the centre of the tooth, causing a toothache.
In order that plaque does not get a chance to form, it is important to brush your teeth regularly and to keep your mouth clean.
The good old Indian habit of swishing the mouth a few times with fresh water after a meal is good. That apart, brush before sleeping. The best thing is to brush after every meal.
In pregnancy your gums and teeth are in a more delicate condition, so a soft brush is preferred to a hard one. A brush with a small head will reach all the corners and surfaces of your teeth more easily. Change your toothbrush when the bristles begin to look droopy or flat.
Bits of food left between the teeth can irritate the gums and cause them to bleed. You can visit your dentist if you have bleeding gums. Ask your dentist about dental floss. Eat fewer sweets and more of salads and fruits.
Remember that your gums soften, not the teeth. If you brush adequately you can save your teeth.
When the body needs extra calcium to form the baby’s teeth and bones and there is not enough in the mother’s body, the womb will steal from the mother’s bones, making them brittle. The teeth themselves are unaffected. They have to be protected by proper cleanliness.
Leg cramps may occur suddenly in pregnancy and be quite painful. They mostly occur in the last months of pregnancy. Sluggish blood circulation, lack of calcium, and lack of Vitamin B are thought to cause these cramps.
Massaging the area when cramps occur is relieving. Also, point the toes inwards towards the face when the cramp occurs. Someone can hold the painful area on the leg with one hand and with the other hand guide the toes to point towards the face.
A hot water bottle should also help. One can take it to bed and night, if cramps tend to occur at night.
One can increase the intake of milk products, so that the body can get the much-needed calcium. Cottage cheese, milk, curds buttermilk, cheese; and greens of radish , turnip, cauliflower, methi, dhania, pudina are good.
Whole and split (chhilka) dals should be a good source of Vitamin B. Whole moong, whole massor, whole urad, split moong and split urad are some examples.
Exercising to get eh circulation going in the legs should also help. When you have to sit for long periods, draw the letters of the alphabet (A, B, C, etc ) with your toes, in the air.
Before sleeping, walk across about a six-foot-long area, on your toes, then on your heels and lastly, on the sides of your feet. Done every day before sleeping at night, it has given relief to a lot of women.
Take extra salt, especially at night, in case cramps occur when you are trying to go on a salt-free diet.
Shortness of Breath
As the pregnancy advances, the uterus presses towards the lungs. This results in shortness of breath and painting when you climb even a few steps, or the need to take a deep sigh frequently.
This is more so in case of a twin pregnancy, or if you are fairly short, so that the uterus feels very large. The discomfort will be more when you sit one something low, when you slump your shoulders or when you lie down, if you sit up straight, it will relieve the discomfort.
It is nothing to worry about, the discomfort will vanish with the birth of the baby.
You might feel that your heart is beating unusually fast. This is called palpitation. Sometimes you might feel your heart missing a beat. You are more likely to notice this when you exert physically, like walking, climbing stairs, etc. it is quite normal.
It happens because your heart does a lot of work when you are pregnant. It needs to pump enough blood around your body to supply both you and your baby with oxygen and nutrients.
Also, your blood supply increases in volume by about 40% to keep pace with the increased demands. To cope up with extra volume of blood, the heart actually enlarges, so that it is more powerful. This enables it to pump through the extra blood without speeding up the rate of heartbeat.
Thus it is not surprising to occasionally notice a difference in the way your heartbeat sounds. However, palpitations are nothing to worry about.
Fainting and Dizziness
Because of lowering of blood pressure not enough oxygen reaches the brain. Sometimes this causes fainting or dizziness. Dizzy spells may also be caused by anaemia.
In the first three months of pregnancy, the blood pressure is lower than normal. This is why some women complain of dizziness when they first become pregnant.
Some of them might actually lose consciousness for a moment or two. This is not harmful to the baby or the mother, except that the mother might injure herself if she falls to the ground in a faint.
In case you have a tendency towards dizzy spells or fainting, avoid crowded and smoky atmosphere and long journeys. Avoid moving too suddenly from a lying or sitting position.
Some pregnant women develop an itchy skin, and find red bumps appearing on the abdomen and breasts. this is primarily due to the stretching of the skin and can be aggravated by heavy perspiration or stress.
For temporary relief try an oil massage. Women with large breasts often find that it affects them just under the breasts. calamine lotion may have a soothing effect.
The skin is made up of elastic and non-elastic fibres. When stretching beyond the normal limits occurs, as in pregnancy, the non-elastic fibres tend to break, causing stretch marks.
At first these marks may occur as streaks. After birth they take on a kind of purple or brown shade and finally end up as whitish streaks. Excessive water retention (which does not occur as a result of drinking excessive water), or weight gain can also cause stretch marks.
These marks may appear on the tummy, breasts, bottom and thighs.
To an extent the marks may be controlled by regulating weight to avoid overstretching of the skin but the stretching on the tummy cannot be avoided as it is the result of expanding uterus.
Besides, hormonal changes that encourage water retention may cause an increase in fluid retention on your bottom and thighs, causing stretch marks to appear, even in an aware, weight-regulated woman.
The reason why stretch marks are worse in some women, is simply because the elasticity of the skin varies from person to person. Women with fewer stretch marks have more elastic fibres in the skin.
There is no way in which the skin’s elasticity can be increased to reduce stretch marks.
Many women believe that oiling the skin helps, especially with Vitamin E oil. There is no evidence to support this theory. However there is no harm in a gentle massage of the stretched abdomen.
It is very relaxing. Moreover if you are lucky, you may find that the marks do not appear at all.
Mucous membranes inside the nose and sinuses often swell up during pregnancy, on account of certain hormones that also soften up the vagina and the mouth of the womb, in preparation for birth.
Some women therefore develop a permanent cold in late pregnancy. However, this will not interfere with you ability to do breathing exercises at the time of labour.
Pain under the Breasts
Pain under the breasts or just below the ribs is common as pregnancy advances, say after the sixth month. The reason being that as the baby grows, it extends upwards to below the breasts and tends to push up your organs like the liver, stomach, etc., towards the chest cavity.
You will find stretching your arms up, straight above your head, helps relieve discomfort, since it lifts the rib cage off the growing uterus. Also, sitting straight rather than slouching forward will be more comfortable.
Pain in the Groin and Sides of the Abdomen
In late pregnancy it is common to have pain in the pelvic region. Since the joints of the pelvic girdle soften in preparation for birth. Avoid standing for long time. The pain might also result from stretching of the round ligament, which holds the uterus in place.
Tingling and Numbness
Tingling and numbness may be felt in the hands in the morning. It is caused by the pressure on the nerves and tendons by the accumulated fluid in hands and wrists. It is felt more in the morning when your wrists have accumulated fluid during the night.
To relieve the discomfort, hold your hands above your head for a few minutes and point your fingers towards the ceiling and open and close your fists alternately. Try and control the swelling in your body by reducing salt in the diet.
Swollen Hands and Feet
Pregnancy can bring with it swelling of hands, feet ankles and face. This is called oedema. Since the body retains extra water in pregnancy, a little bit of swelling is normal.
Swelling can also be caused by hot weather, tight or ill-fitting shoes or exertion; but this kind of swelling generally disappears overnight, when you are comfortable and it is cooler.
Severe swelling of the hands and feet that does not go away at night could be a symptom of the onset of toxaemia and should be reported to the doctor.
Increase your protein intake and reduce salt intake. Salt encourages retention of water in the body. Avoid foods with a high concentration of salt, e.g., pickles and salted fish.
Avoid standing for long periods of time without rest. Sit whenever possible, and if possible, put your feet up on a stool.