Pregnancy causes many body changes in women. In early pregnancy, most symptoms begin at about six weeks. Every pregnancy, and every woman, is different … so some women can experience symptoms sooner than six weeks and some will experience symptoms later than six weeks. Some women do not experience symptoms of early pregnancy at all!
Body changes in the first trimester
Very early in the first trimester (one to two weeks after conception), some women notice vaginal spotting or light bleeding when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. This is also known as “Implantation Bleeding.”
Due to softening of the cervix, it is common to spot or bleed after intercourse, especially in early pregnancy.
Light abdominal cramping that comes and goes may also occur, due to growth of the uterus. Bleeding like a period or painful abdominal cramping is not normal and should be evaluated by your physician.
Most women experience breast changes during pregnancy. The breasts feel heavier and become much fuller. The color of the areola may change to a darker hue.
Most women complain of breast tenderness, but this eases through the pregnancy. It is recommended that pregnant women wear comfortable, supportive bras. It is important to be sure it is sized correctly, especially as the breasts grow during pregnancy.
The body experiences many changes as progesterone, a pregnancy hormone, levels increase:
A small amount of white discharge is normal in pregnancy, as long as it is not associated with vaginal pain, itching or odor.
Many women experience lack of energy or fatigue. Pregnant women require a healthy sleep routine and are encouraged to get plenty of rest. Your body is growing a human, after all!
The increase in progesterone can also cause nausea and vomiting. Due to the nausea, increased sensitivity to smells is not uncommon. Nausea/vomiting in pregnancy can sometimes lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include abdominal cramping and headaches. It is encouraged to continue proper hydration, as tolerated. Nausea and vomiting usually improves near the end of the first trimester and the appetite returns.
Some pregnant women experience emotional changes early in pregnancy:
Sometimes women report mood swings, being irrational or unexplained weeping.
Many women are anxious about being pregnant, which can also cause an emotional reaction.
As the pregnancy progresses, many women feel much more relaxed and calm. Many start getting excited in anticipation for the new arrival.
Body changes in the second trimester
With the start of the second trimester of pregnancy, many pregnancy symptoms may stay the same but there will be new changes as well:
For many women, morning sickness will improve or only occur sporadically and appetite seems to increase. Changes in appetite can cause constipation, gas or bloating. It is also common to experience heartburn or indigestion.
Although there will be a decrease in breast tenderness, the breasts will continue to grow. A supportive, well-fitting bra is still recommended for optimal comfort.
White vaginal discharge due to hormone changes is still common as long as it is not associated with other symptoms like vaginal burning, pain or odor.
There are many new changes that can occur during the second trimester of pregnancy:
The fatigue from the first trimester fades and the pregnant woman usually has increased energy.
An increase in blood volume during pregnancy can cause some mild swelling of ankles or feet, especially when standing for an extended period of time.
Some women experience sensitive gums that bleed when brushing. It is important to continue routine dental check-ups.
Many pregnant women experience nasal congestion or nose bleeds. It helps to keep the nasal passages moist with saline spray and by using a humidifier at home.
The uterus is supported in place by a group of ligaments. As the uterus grows, these ligaments stretch or pull. It is not uncommon for this stretching or pulling to cause aches in the lower abdomen or on either side of the abdomen. As the uterus grows, it becomes heavier. It is encouraged for the expectant mother to use a maternity belt or support to help alleviate these pains. Extreme abdominal pain is never normal in pregnancy and should be evaluated by a physician.
During the second trimester, the uterus continues to grow out of the pelvic cavity. Many women see changes in the size and shape of the abdomen. As the uterus grows, posture may change due to the pregnant belly protruding. This change in posture can cause back pain in the pregnant woman.
The favorite change of the second trimester to many pregnant women is the ability to feel fetal movement. Feeling fetal movement is sporadic at first, as the fetus is so small. By the end of the second trimester, a pregnant woman should feel consistent fetal movement. Movements in the second trimester may feel “clunky” and as though they are big stretching movements.
Body changes during the third trimester
In the third trimester, most women become increasingly uncomfortable. As the baby becomes larger and settles in the pelvis, new physical discomforts can occur:
Due to increased fluid volume produced, there may be an increase in swelling of the ankles and feet, as well as hands and face.
Colostrum (or “Pre-Milk”) may start leaking from nipples as the breast prepare to begin producing milk.
Some women may alternate times of extra energy (nesting) and extra fatigue as time gets closer to delivery.
These discomforts may cause problems sleeping comfortably at night.
After the baby “drops”:
After the baby “drops” or settles in the pelvis, a pregnant woman may be able to breathe easier, as there is less pressure on her diaphragm and more room for her lungs to expand. But there will be more pressure placed on the bladder by the baby being lower in the pelvis which may cause more frequent urination.
Increased backache and heaviness, as well as buttock and pelvic discomfort are common. Some women even have a sensation of a sudden sharp pain or shock in the pelvic area if the baby settles on a nerve. While uncomfortable, all of these experiences are normal parts of the third trimester.
Pregnant women in the third trimester, may have more frequent and intense contractions, called “Braxton-Hicks Contractions”. These contractions are irregular and can be eased with rest, Tylenol administration and hydration.
Labor contractions become stronger over time and come at regular intervals. Labor can also be distinguished by vaginal bleeding or leakage of amniotic fluid. If these symptoms occur, a pregnant woman needs to be evaluated by her doctor.
Knowing about changes the pregnant body can experience helps an expecting woman feel calmer about what she is experiencing. If you have any questions or need additional information, reach out to your OBGyn provider. If you do not yet have a provider, the OBGyns at MCH ProCare Women’s Clinic are available to become your provider for your pregnancy and upcoming arrival of your bundle of joy.