9 mind-blowing things that happen to your pregnant body

From larger and more of everything to amped-up lung power, your body transforms in amazing ways when you’re expecting!

Pregnancy-9 mind-blowing things that happen to your pregnant body MAIN

Pregnancy-9 mind-blowing things that happen to your pregnant body MAIN

Discovering that you’re pregnant is the best news in the world, yet to actually go through a pregnancy is quite a roller-coaster ride for any mum-to-be.

Not only will your emotions see-saw, your body also goes through a raft of unexpected changes. Relax, this is just your body’s way of preparing you for the arrival of your new baby.

That said, every woman’s body is different, so you may not experience the same symptoms as other expectant mothers. Still, here are several wonderful changes you’ll likely face when expecting.

1. Your uterus begins to expand

Though the thought of your internal organs growing bigger seems insane, this is a perfectly normal change that most pregnant women go through.

Elevated levels of the hormone progesterone causes certain internal structures to expand, explains Dr Pamela Tan, an ob-gyn at Thomson Medical Centre. This includes the uterus, which grows from the size of a small pear to five times its size by full term.  

So, expect your uterus to increase in weight from 50g to 1kg, in height from 7.5cm to 30cm, in width from 5cm to 23cm, and in depth from 2.5cm to 20cm.

"Because your expanding uterus is pressing against your bladder, you might need to urinate frequently, particularly in the first and last months of pregnancy." 

2. Your hair and nails start to change

Thicker and shinier hair is a change any mum would welcome, thanks to a slower hair loss rate, as opposed to increased hair growth.

Dr Tan explains that the greater amount of oestrogen produced by your body prolongs your hair’s growth phrase and leads to less hair dropping. Unfortunately, your body and facial hair may also grow faster, thanks to an increase in the androgen hormone!

Some expectant mums also enjoy harder and faster nail growth. Or (which proves that every pregnancy is different), you may also find your nails becoming more brittle, thanks to the too-quick growth.

Not to worry, however, Dr Tan assures thee unlucky women that such changes aren't permanent, as fragile nails should return to their normal state post-birth.

3. You need to pee more than usual

Because your expanding uterus is pressing against your bladder, you might need to urinate frequently, particularly in the first and last months of pregnancy.

“In late pregnancy, one often has to get up during the night to urinate, because fluid retained in the legs and feet during the day is absorbed into the blood circulation when one’s legs are raised in bed,” Dr Tan elaborates. “Your kidneys extract the excess fluid and turn it into urine, so the bladder fills more quickly at night.”

Clara Wan, 28, mum to a 7-month-old baby girl, recalls having to visit the toilet frequently during her pregnancy. “I definitely did not have a good hold over my pee, and would go to the toilet maybe once or twice an hour.”

4. Your bones start to loosen

Not only does progesterone cause the uterus to expand, it also makes your body’s joints and ligaments looser.  “From 35-36 weeks, another hormone called relaxin is produced ― this further causes the ligaments and tendons to stretch in preparation for labour,” notes Dr. Tan.

As a result and also how it’ll change your posture, you may also be at a higher risk of sprains and strains, so be very mindful when you walk.

My body just hurt in general, which made walking very difficult ― my back, head, neck and especially my hips,” says Wan. “It was like carrying a really heavy backpack around all the time.”

 

Pregnancy-9 mind-blowing things that happen to your pregnant body 2

5. Your breasts get bigger

“In early pregnancy, the breasts may feel full or tingle and increase in size as pregnancy progresses,” Dr Tan notes. “The areola around the nipples [circle of pigmented skin] also darkens, with its diameter increasing.”

Additionally, your Montgomery’s glands (the tiny bumps in the areola) may enlarge or stick out more, she adds. Increased blood circulation can also cause your breasts’ surface blood vessels to become more visible, giving a bluish tint to your boobs

“During pregnancy, my breast became bigger and saggier,” relates Mildred Chew, mum to a 1-month old son. “The underside of my breasts kept making contact with my belly, and I felt irked by the sensation of my breasts rubbing against my body!”

Wan adds that in addition to her breasts growing over the trimesters, they become sore as well. “My breasts hurt a lot ― I even mistakenly thought I had breast cancer,” she says.

6. Your blood volume increases

“Blood volume (the total volume of blood in circulation) gradually increases by 30 to 50 per cent during pregnancy, so by full term, a woman has about 1.5 litres more blood than before pregnancy,” says Dr Tan. “This is because a higher circulating blood volume is needed to provide additional blood flow to the placenta, so oxygen and nutrients can reach the foetus.”

If you find your heart beating faster than usual, don’t be surprised as well!  As Dr. Tan explains, a pregnant woman’s resting heart rate is about 15 beats per minute higher than normal. Your heart’s stroke volume (the volume of blood pumped out of your heart in a single heartbeat) also becomes higher.

Because of these changes in how your heart functions, your cardiac input (the amount of blood pumped out of the heart each minute) becomes elevated, too, increasing almost three-fold ― from 2.5 litres to 7 litres per minute.

“Improved blood circulation means that more blood flows through the vessels. The skin therefore retains more moisture, causing it to plump up and even out any wrinkles.”

7. Your respiration and perspiration skyrockets 

Believe it or not, the amount of air moving in and out of your lungs increases by nearly 50 per cent when you are pregnant!

“This is because each breath contains a larger volume of air and the rate of breathing (breaths per minute) increases slightly,” Dr Tan explains. “The circumference of the chest cage increases as well, and there’s an upward displacement of the diaphragm as a result of the enlarging uterus. This causing a breathless feeling towards term.”

Besides elevated respiration, you may also start sweating buckets, thanks to increased hormone levels and blood flow to the skin.

“I felt hot most of the time, especially during my third trimester,” Chew recalls. “Thankfully, I didn’t develop heat rash ― only a minor rash around the neck during post-natal confinement.” 

“Sometimes, I got hot flushes and feel much warmer than other people,” Wan adds. “The aircon and fan would be on, but I would still feel really warm!”

8. You may become forgetful

Even if you pride yourself on being super conscientious, memory lapses ― also known as mummy brain ― are common during pregnancy.

“I remember being very forgetful during my pregnancy and always misplacing things,” Wan says. “During that period I was quite absent-minded, especially in terms of my schedule or who I was meeting the next day.”

Although research is currently ongoing, there’s no exact science as regards what causes pregnancy brain fog.

Pregnancy does cause physiological transformations because hormones are released, though it’s hard to determine how this affects memory, Dr Tan says. Still, studies have shown that pregnancy could alter a woman’s brain structure.

MRI scans done on the brains of 25 women showed that they had lost some gray matter during their pregnancies. Though no definitive conclusions were reached, researchers have acknowledged that there is a relation between brain structure changes and memory loss.

That said, as with any other significant life event, the anxiety, excitement and fatigue you experience during pregnancy may impact your memory and concentration. 

9. You develop a pregnancy glow

Several reasons are offered when expectant mums radiate that much-desired pregnancy glow.

“Improved blood circulation means that more blood flows through the vessels,” Dr Tan explains. “The skin therefore retains more moisture, causing it to plump up and even out any wrinkles. Hence, the skin feels healthier and smoother.”

Another reason for smooth, luminous skin is that the mum-to-be sweats more because the increased weight and blood volume causes her body temperature to rise.  Sweat is known to clear out impurities in skin pores and make it look brighter and radiant, according to Dr Tan.

She adds that a surge in hormones like progesterone and Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) help the face’s sebaceous glands secrete oil,  giving one’s skin a shiny, supple appearance. On the downside, excess oil may also cause pregnancy acne and increased pigmentation.

Photos: iStock

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