Brave New Motherhood

7 Amazing Body Changes During Pregnancy

7 Amazing Body Changes During Pregnancy

amazing body changes during pregnancy, how your body changes during pregnancy

Growing a human being is one of the most incredible miracles of life, but we often only hear about the tougher aspects: morning sickness, weight gain, stretch marks, varicose veins. 

As a mom, I wanted to share some of the wonderful ways our bodies and minds change to grow and deliver a baby -- it’s stunning how well-equipped we are to nourish life and bring it into the world.

body changes during pregnancy, skin glows, pregnancy glow

1. Your blood volume increases, giving you more radiant skin.

“Pregnancy glow” is a real phenomenon! During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by an astounding 50 percent! One-fifth of your pre-pregnancy blood supply supports the uterus alone. The extra blood supply is also necessary for the exchange of nutrients, metabolites, and respiratory gases.

Not only are you nourishing your baby, but you’re also making it possible to lose 300-1,000 ml of blood during labor without compromising your health. This boosted circulation, along with the increase in hormones, can make you look gorgeous and radiant too.  

body changes during pregnancy, placenta grows

2. You grow a whole new organ.

The placenta is the only transient organ in the body. About a week after conception, after the fertilized egg has implanted itself in the uterine wall, the placenta begins to form. Once formed, the placenta and umbilical cord allow you to provide nutrients to your baby. The placenta also removes the baby’s intrauterine waste.

A lesser-known purpose for the placenta is to excrete hormones like human chorionic gonadotropin, estrogen, and progesterone. Those hormones maintain the pregnancy and prepare the mammary glands for nursing. Once the placenta’s job is done (the baby is born), it's expelled from the body.

body changes during pregnancy, relaxin

3. Soft tissues relax to make delivery easier.

During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin increases by ten times. This hormonal shift softens the ligaments, cartilage, and joints connecting the bones in your body. This softening enables the necessary shifting of internal structures to accommodate your baby’s birth. Naturally, your pelvis will need to expand quite a bit to allow your baby’s head through the pubic symphysis.

Relaxin also plays a crucial role in remodeling bone and healing soft tissue injuries. According to Birth Fit, women who “have been training and continue to train during their pregnancy likely have enhanced body awareness and joint stability.” So if you’ve been active, you can capitalize on this time to build your sensorimotor skills.

body changes during pregnancy, breathing capacity

4. Your breathing capacity improves.

As the uterus expands and places pressure on the diaphragm, some women experience shortness of breath. You’re actually breathing more efficiently since high levels of progesterone signal a reduction in carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

To oxygenate the increased blood, you’re inhaling 30 to 40 percent deeper, even if you don’t realize it. In fact, Parenting Magazine says that about a third of asthmatics have been able to go off their medication while pregnant due to this improved breathing capacity.

body changes during pregnancy, heightened smell

5. Your senses of smell and taste become more acute.

Starting in early pregnancy, my sense of smell went into overdrive. I’ve always loved the smell of coffee, but suddenly I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t tolerate even a whiff of perfume or cologne. Cigarette smoke didn’t just bother me -- it made me angry!

About two-thirds of pregnant women find they have heightened olfactory senses. Some researchers credit a high level of estrogen in the body with the superhero powers of enhanced taste and smell (which may be responsible for nausea and vomiting).

The increased blood flow also transmits sensory information to the brain faster. From an evolutionary standpoint, women have to be expert tasters and smellers to avoid eating poisonous or spoiled food while pregnant.

body changes during pregnancy, breast changes during pregnancy

6. Your breasts change.

Starting as early as a few weeks into your first trimester of pregnancy, you may notice that your breasts feel tender and larger. Sore breasts were my first sign of pregnancy with my second baby. I was still nursing my almost-two-year-old, and I’d only had two periods since he was born. But when I woke up one morning with very tender breasts, I knew it could only mean one thing.

Breast fluctuations vary from person to person, but it’s common during pregnancy to expand by one or two cup sizes. In addition to growing, the nipple and areola may darken in color, which will help your baby seek nourishment in those earliest weeks.

To make the changes in size and sensitivity easier, the American Pregnancy Association recommends “a good supportive bra.” For more information on choosing the right bra, read How to Fit a Nursing Bra: 3 Mistakes Moms Make Bra Shopping.

brain changes during pregnancy

7. Your brain changes.

A five-year study shows evidence that pregnancy may change a woman’s brain structure in noticeable ways after giving birth. Researchers found decreased grey matter in areas of the brain responsible for analyzing how others think and feel. 

These differences could improve a woman’s ability to recognize social threats, empathize with, and nurture her baby. They also discovered that the areas with grey matter loss lit up when women looked at pictures of their own babies, signifying greater attachment to their children.

Learn more about your amazing changing body.

Watch this interactive video from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It shows the changes the body undergoes throughout pregnancy and includes quotes from real mothers about their firsthand experiences.

Check out this fun video on taste changes during pregnancy and how your diet may affect your baby’s developing sense of taste.

You can also read our Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy blog series to learn how you and your baby change from week to week.

No two pregnancies are exactly alike, which only adds to the sense of wonderment about this time in life. You may not experience nine months of pure bliss, but think of all the things you’re capable of while growing a whole person.

Some childbirth educators suggest that many women come out of their pregnancies feeling more self-confident about the next step. As Ina May writes in her Guide to Childbirth, “I have felt incredible energy and life force through my body, and I have really been reborn a happier, healthier, and more confident person.”

As you move through the nine months of pregnancy toward your due date, know that your body is stronger and more capable than you may think. Resist the urge to sweat the small stuff on those days when your body changes seem to be getting the better of you. Drink plenty of water, take your prenatal vitamins, get comfortable maternity clothes, rest, listen to the advice of your health care professionals -- and listen to your body. 

Pregnancy and childbirth can be transformative experiences. But remember, you’re already an amazing person, ready both physically and mentally to grow, deliver, bond with, and raise your child.

amazing body changes during pregnancy

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