Pregnancy and its effect on your body
The person in the mirror looks quite like you did before you were pregnant, but something’s changed. Apart from the bump, what on earth is happening to you?
THERE are no prizes for spotting the most obvious physical change during pregnancy. But that expanding belly is just the tip of the prenatal iceberg, and if it’s heading straight for you, you may feel a bit uneasy.
Yes, your body will act, and look, differently during the nine months. It will annoy, perplex and most likely embarrass you, and you will not be friends with it by the time those last few weeks roll around. But don’t despair; the vast majority of these changes are perfectly normal, and due to either hormonal fluctuations or the physical bulk of your baby. In the meantime, here’s some of what you can expect, and how to deal with it.
As with most physical changes during pregnancy, this will affect different women differently. So while some women will be left wondering why someone hasn’t stopped them in the street with a L’Oreal contract, others will be questioning why they are looking more and more like a Lego man.
Blame your hormones. During pregnancy, your hair falls out at a much slower rate; its oil production and follicular structure can also change. The result? You will have more hair, and it may not look or feel like itself. As mentioned, this can be a curse or a blessing, depending on the current state of your mane. If you’re less than thrilled, get a decent cut, but hold off on any major changes until it settles down. This usually happens within six months of the birth. During those six months, your hair will make up for lost time by leaping off your head in near-alarming quantities. Step away from the Regaine; this is normal.
During pregnancy, your baby will snatch whatever calcium it can. So don’t be surprised if you’re more prone to teeth problems. Your gums may also bleed more often, due to hormonal changes and the fact that you have more blood circulating. Now would be a good time to overcome your aversion to flossing.
Your breasts may get bigger even before you know you are pregnant, but that is nothing to how, ahem, generous they will become by the end of the nine months. By then, they will contain colostrum (early milk). You will probably need to change to a larger bra as your pregnancy progresses; maternity or nursing bras will provide more support, and are useful after the birth if you’re planning to breastfeed.
And, in case you thought that was the end of their antics, your breasts may get sore in the early and final months, and will likely start leaking either by the end of pregnancy or after the birth. Not the worst thing in the world, but with definite embarrassment potential, especially in the summer months when you’re not cocooned in multiple layers. A supply of breast pads will sort you out. You may also notice your nipples and areoles get darker, and see more bluish veins on your breasts.
Your skin in general may darken during pregnancy. This will delight you if you happen to have blue/white/see-through Irish skin. But before you get too excited, it may just happen in patches (or not at all). Some women will develop a dark line down the centre of their stomach (linea negra), while others may find their birthmarks, moles and freckles darken. You are also likely to burn more easily in the sun.
Extra pressure on blood vessels due to an expanding uterus can cause swelling in the legs and feet. And while you won’t be fitting into any glass slippers for some time, you can alleviate the problem by upping your fluid intake, avoiding high-salt foods, elevating your legs when sitting – don’t sit cross-legged – and wearing supportive, low-heeled shoes.
Ultimately, the majority of physical changes during pregnancy are irritating but perfectly normal. And, as you sit looking down at your swollen feet (if you can still see them), sore breasts, patchwork skin and blue veins, trying to summon up the energy to go and pee for the fifth time this hour, just remember that you are glowing like an old Ready Brek ad.
This article first appeared in Mothers & Babies magazine. To read the supplement online, click here.