A woman’s body undergoes some amazing changes when it’s growing a little human being. Here are just 10 little gems the body does, which you may know already but have not really thought about. If you’re pregnant, chances are these interesting facts will come in handy during conversations in the next nine months, or at the very least they might help you answer some tricky trivia questions one day!
1. You grow an entire organ. The placenta is a multi-talented new organ that grows in the uterus during pregnancy. Fully grown, it can weigh about .7kg! It supplies oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby via the umbilical cord. It also plays a key role removing waste and protects baby from infection. Once baby is born, the placenta’s job is done, and you will either deliver your placenta (Third stage of labour) or it will be removed manually if having a caesarean section.
Tip: Eating a healthy well-balanced diet helps support your placenta to do its best work. See our blog for more information
2. You do actually “glow”. With extra blood pumping through a pregnant woman’s body women’s faces can appear brighter or flushed, and the hormones produce extra oil in the skin resulting in “glowing” skin and shiny hair.
Tip: Appreciate your glow and people’s compliments. However, it must be noted, for some women the skin changes aren’t so attractive, including acne, and dark patches called ‘chloasma’ or the “mask of pregnancy”. If the excess oil triggers temporary acne and it’s of concern, ask your pharmacist about skin care products available to reduce oil build-up.
3. Your blood volume increases. The volume of blood in a woman’s body progressively increases throughout a normal pregnancy. This increase of up to 50% usually occurs by 34weeks. This is just one of the physiological changes that occur to nurture the developing fetus and prepare the mother for the birth.
Tip: Exercise is encouraged in pregnancy for mind and body including heart health. For more information see our blog
4. You loosen up. High levels of the hormone relaxin and progesterone relax muscles and loosen ligaments and joints in pregnancy. This loosening accommodates the growing uterus and prepares the body for childbirth. A common complaint from this though is back and pelvic pain during pregnancy.
Tip: Keep your knees together when rolling in bed, bend your knees when picking things up, avoid twisting movements, and seek the support of a women’s health physiotherapist, osteopath or GP if you experience ongoing pain.
5. You may develop a line on your growing abdomen. A dark line known as the linea nigra can appear on the abdomen of some women during pregnancy. This is caused by higher melatonin levels and tends to affect women with darker colouring more than those with fairer complexions.
Tip: Do not worry. It is not harmful and will fade again after your pregnancy within a few months
6. You breathe differently. As the uterus grows and starts pressing on the diaphragm particularly later in pregnancy, it’s common for pregnant women to feel short of breath.
Tip: Maintain good posture when you’re sitting or standing so your lungs have enough room to expand when breathing. Breathlessness can also be a sign of other conditions, such as anaemia or dehydration, so please see your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns.
7. You have more hair on your head. More hormones in pregnancy prevent hair from shredding at its normal rate. Higher oestrogen levels extend the growth phase (that is the resting stage before hair falls out) which can mean a thicker ponytail in pregnancy.
Tip: After your baby is born, the built-up hair gradually falls out. This can come as a bit of a shock at first, but it is only the hair you would have lost during the previous nine months.
8. Your hands may tingle. Numbness and tingling in the hands could be a sign of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which happens when one of the major nerves to the hand is pressured as it travels through the wrist. It usually affects the dominant hand more often and pregnant women are more at risk
Tip: If you have this condition, please note it usually disappears after baby has arrived. You may like to see a physiotherapist for splinting, however treatment for carpal tunnel in pregnancy is more about comfort measures (simple analgesia, avoidance of repetitious movements and alternative therapies – acupuncture, osteo/chiropractic)
9. Your sense of smell is stronger. It is common for a woman’s sense of smell to change in pregnancy, and occurs very early on in pregnancy. Food aversions or cravings in pregnancy are a result of this change in the sense of smell, rather than the sense of taste.
Tip: A heightened sense of smell is often the first symptom experienced for some women to learn they are pregnant. Certain smells could also make you feel physically ill, contributing to the nausea and vomiting in first trimester.
10. You’ll need to go to the toilet more. As the growing uterus expands onto your bladder and your kidneys’ tubes dilate, you’ll need more trips to the toilet for small amounts of urine.
Tip: While increased trips to the toilet are normal in pregnancy, even in the first trimester, just be mindful of other symptoms like a stinging sensation, a feeling of still needing to go to the toilet at the end of urination and any offensive odour. Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common in pregnancy and need prompt attention by your midwife or GP.