During pregnancy your body goes through enormous changes over a relatively short space of time. It’s probably the only time that you’ll feel happy about having a big belly!
But it’s not just your belly that’s affected…..
During pregnancy, your body obviously has to change to nurture your developing baby.
Your tummy will naturally expand to accommodate your growing baby, but the rest of your body will often join the party! Moon-shaped faces, sausage fingers, thunder thighs and humungous backsides are all indicators of the changes that are occurring in your life. But remember – they’re only temporary!
Your nipples and aureoles (the skin surrounding your nipple) can also become bigger and darker during pregnancy. The darkness may fade a little after you’ve given birth, but the skin will generally remain a darker shade.
If your breasts grow very large during pregnancy and subsequent breastfeeding, there’s a chance they could become stretch marked and saggy. They may lose some of their elasticity, but exercises can help to keep the pectoral muscles strong and can reduce the drooping.
The most obvious physical change in pregnancy is weight gain of around 12kg. In the first three months, you may see no change in your shape or weight at all, or you may look and feel very pregnant with a weight gain of around ten per cent.
During the first trimester stretch marks can also start to appear. These will usually show on your thighs, tummy, breasts and bottom. There are various creams on the market to help to alleviate the effect of these marks, but you can’t prevent them unfortunately.
During your pregnancy your heart has to work harder by increasing the volume of each ‘pump’ and heart rate.
This can give you the feeling of palpitations, a sensation of feeling your heart beating. Also, as your blood vessels dilate, this increases the blood flow to the skin to get rid of the increased heat, leading to a feeling of warmth and the ‘glow of pregnancy’. The widening of the vessels can also cause a reduction in blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy and faint, especially when you stand up.
Increased blood volume and the weight of your womb pressing down on veins at the tops of your thighs can cause the flow of blood from the legs to the abdomen to slow down, which may mean you develop painful and swollen varicose veins. Putting your feet up whenever you can and wearing pregnancy support tights can help.
The bigger you get, the more likely you are to have swollen feet and ankles at the end of each day. The extra weight you’re carrying makes your body’s pumping and drainage system work overtime and means there’s often a build-up of fluid in your feet and legs.
Your bladder is compressed early and late in pregnancy – leading to increased frequency of needing to pass urine. The veins and lymphatic drainage from the legs are compressed, which can lead to your legs swelling and can sometimes cause varicose veins. To avoid this, try elevating your legs as much as possible and try exercise such as walking and swimming.
Don’t panic about your body returning to ‘normal’ after you give birth. Remember – it took nine months for your body to change, so give it – and yourself – a break and just go with the flow!