Physical changes in pregnancy

Every woman’s body undergoes significant transformation during pregnancy. While all women’s experiences of bodily changes in pregnancy are unique and depend on their physical health, nutrition, genes, activity level, lifestyle, level of support and outlook on life—there are some changes that occur in pregnancy that are fairly universal. Today we document those common physical changes in pregnancy.

Knowing what is common in pregnancy can help us to accept and embrace what is happening to our bodies as they rapidly change before our eyes. At prenatal visits, we welcome all of your thoughts, questions and concerns about how your body may or may not be changing throughout your pregnancy.

Digestive Changes in pregnancy

Any of the following changes in the digestive system can occur in pregnancy:

• Increased sensitivity to smell and taste of foods
• Changes in food preferences
• Aversions to some foods and cravings for others, even those you may not have disliked/preferred prior to pregnancy (some of these may be indicators of nutritional deficiencies)
• Nausea
• Constipation
• Slow digestion
• Change in appetite
• Bowel changes
• Indigestion
• Heartburn
• Gum and other dental changes, including gum bleeding and sensitivity may occur

Breast changes in pregnancy

The following are common changes in a woman’s breasts during pregnancy:

• Sensitivity, tingling, and tenderness immediately following conception and for the first weeks of pregnancy. This can be a first indicator of pregnancy for many women, though not all women will experience this.
• Increase in breast size, often in the first half of pregnancy. This increase may be considerable and can cause some discomfort for some women and none for others.
• Montgomery’s tubercles: raised bumps around the areola (preparation for milk production~ these small glands aid in nipple lubrication)
• Nipple sensitivity
• Yellow or cream colored discharge later in pregnancy—this is colostrum, your first milk.
• More visible veins on your chest and breasts
• Breasts may feel a bit lumpier than normal. This is due to enlargement of the milk glands. If you are worried about any lumps that seem abnormal, always ask your midwife about them.
• Enlargement and darkening of the areola

Vaginal changes during pregnancy

It is common for the following changes to occur as early as the first trimester:

• You may not notice this ,but it is common for the vaginal canal to become more purple in color
• Vaginal discharge increases
• Some women may experience yeast infections due to this increase in vaginal fluid
• The vagina and vulva become engorged during pregnancy due to increase blood flow to the area
• Increased sensitivity, which some women experience as pleasurable.
• Some light spotting after sex—because the cervix also becomes engorged and softens, it can bleed slightly if touched or scraped, and this is okay. If you are concerned about any vaginal bleeding, call your care providers.

Urinary tract changes

• An increase in the frequency of urination, even at night. This can be totally normal and may be particularly noticeable in the first and last trimesters. If this frequency is accompanied by other symptoms such as discomfort, burning, itching, backache, uterine contractions, or flulike symptoms, contact your care provider.

• Stress incontinence. Some women notice that they lose a little urine with coughing, sneezing, running or jumping. This can be a sign of pelvic floor weakness, which is important to address for your short and long-term wellbeing. (Talk to your care providers for more information.)

Uterine changes

The uterus grows from the size of a small pear and weight of a few ounces to the size of a watermelon and the weight of a couple pounds. What a remarkable organ.

• By 12 weeks of pregnancy, the top of the uterus, called the fundus, reaches above your pubic bone
• By week 20, it reaches above the belly button
• By week 36, it will be pushing against the diaphragm at the top of the rib cage
• Baby drops down slightly in the days and weeks before birth as it shifts into place in preparation for its grand entrance.

Other physical changes in pregnancy

• Read more about skin changes in pregnancy in our previous post.

• Joints can feel looser during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes taking place. For this reason it is important not to over stretch while pregnancy and to be mindful about possible joint instability. Joints may feel tender, “mushy,” or uncomfortable.

• Enhanced sensitivity to sound and touch are common in pregnancy.

• Nasal congestion is common due to hormonal changes.

If you have questions about physical changes you may be experiencing in pregnancy, don’t hesitate to ask us about them at your next visit.