15 Body Changes During Pregnancy: What to Expect

Pregnancy is an incredible adventure that brings a lot of changes for both body and mind. While the emotional and spiritual aspects of pregnancy are profound, many physical changes take place over the 40 week journey. Understanding and preparing for these changes is paramount for expecting mothers, guiding them through the sometimes bumpy (yet beautiful) ride of pregnancy.

15 Body Changes During Pregnancy - What to Expect

Pregnancy is like stepping into a new pair of shoes that grow with you. It’s a time of growth(literally) and change, as you create a brand-new person within your own body. From the exciting flutter of first movements to the anticipation of delivery, the pregnancy experience is as unique as the individual carrying it.

Expecting mothers often find comfort in knowing that the changes they encounter are not only normal but also a sign that the body is doing exactly what it’s designed to do. Unraveling the mystery of these transformations can also lead to a sense of empowerment and connection with the awe-inspiring process of childbirth.

15 Body Changes During Pregnancy - What to Expect

15 Body Changes During Pregnancy

Physical Changes

1. Weight Gain

Weight gain is one of the most noticeable changes during pregnancy. It is a natural and important part of the process, providing essential nourishment for the growing baby. The recommended weight gain varies based on a pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and multiple pregnancies, typically ranging from 25 to 35 pounds for those in a healthy weight range. It’s important for moms-to-be to follow the guidance of their healthcare providers and to understand that the kind of weight gain — whether it’s fat, water, or muscle — can differ for each pregnancy.

2. Skin Changes

Pregnancy hormones can affect the skin in various ways. Many women experience the pregnancy “glow,” a result of increased blood flow that gives the skin that coveted radiant look. However, not all changes are as positive. The surge in hormones can also lead to acne or a condition known as melasma, which causes dark, splotchy patches on the face. Additionally, the rapidly increasing size of the abdomen can lead to stretch marks, a form of scarring that is a normal part of pregnancy but may be unwanted by some.

3. Hormonal Shifts

Hormones play a central role in pregnancy and are responsible for various bodily transformations, from preparing the body for birth to influencing emotions. Progesterone and estrogen, the primary pregnancy-related hormones, guide the development of the fetus, as well as changes in the uterus, breasts, and other maternal tissues.

4. Breast Changes

One of the most prominent physical signs of pregnancy is breast enlargement and tenderness. The body is prepping for milk production, and the expansion of the mammary glands can result in increased cup sizes and sometimes an uncomfortable feeling of fullness. Expecting mothers may also notice their areolas becoming darker and more prominent, which is a natural process as your body gets ready for breastfeeding.

5. Body Aches and Pains

The additional weight gain and hormonal softening of ligaments can lead to various types of body discomfort. Backaches are common as the body adjusts to the baby’s weight and the mother’s center of gravity shifts. Many women also experience round ligament pain, a sharp, stabbing discomfort that can occur in the lower abdomen or groin. To manage these aches, practicing good posture, utilizing pregnancy pillows, and participating in prenatal yoga can offer relief.

Emotional Changes

6. Mood Swings

Hormonal fluctuations don’t just affect the body; they can profoundly impact a woman’s emotions. Mood swings, which involve rapid and unexpected changes from happy to sad — or vice versa — are typical. While these can be challenging to manage, maintaining open communication with a partner and healthcare provider can help expecting mothers feel supported through these fluctuations.

7. Anxiety and Stress

The prospect of childbirth and impending motherhood can be anxiety-provoking. It’s natural for women to experience moments of stress or concern over their health and the well-being of their baby. Building a strong support system, which includes a knowledgeable and compassionate healthcare team, can be invaluable in addressing these anxieties.

8. Bonding with the Baby

While the physical presence of the baby is growing every day, emotional bonding can develop at different paces. Some mothers may feel an instant connection, while others might need more time. Engaging in practices that allow for moments of connection, such as talking to the baby or playing music, can help foster the maternal bond.

Digestive Changes

9. Nausea and Vomiting

Morning sickness is a widespread and often distressing part of the first trimester of pregnancy. It can occur at any time of the day and ranges from mild nausea to frequent and severe vomiting. While the exact cause is not fully understood, hormonal changes, particularly the rapid rise in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), are believed to be a significant factor. To manage these symptoms, healthcare providers often recommend small, frequent meals, ginger supplements, or, in severe cases, medication.  In some cases, women may experience a more severe sickness called Hyperemesis gravidarum. It is more intense than the normal morning sickness experienced by many women during early pregnancy and sometimes requires hospitalization to keep mom and baby healthy.

10. Food Cravings and Aversions

Many women report changes in their food preferences or cravings during pregnancy. These can range from a newly developed dislike of favorite foods to cravings for unique food combinations. In some cases, your body may be asking for something that it needs for the baby to grow.  While I was pregnant I craved liver and it turned out I was iron deficient.

Nutritionists advise expecting moms-to-be to listen to their bodies and provide nourishment based on the cravings within reason while ensuring a balanced diet.

11. Heartburn and Indigestion

The increased production of the hormone progesterone causes muscles to relax, including the lower esophageal sphincter, which separates the esophagus from the stomach. This relaxation can lead to acid reflux and discomfort. To alleviate heartburn, women are advised to eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid foods known to trigger reflux.

Other Changes

12. Increased Urination

Pregnant women often find themselves making frequent trips to the bathroom, particularly during the first and third trimesters. The growing uterus puts pressure on the bladder, reducing its capacity and increasing the need for urination. Staying hydrated is still important, and kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to manage these frequent trips.

13. Swelling

Edema, or swelling, is common in pregnancy and is especially noticeable in the legs and feet. This occurs due to the body’s increased blood and fluid volume and the pressure on the pelvic veins by the expanding uterus. Swelling can often be managed by drinking plenty of water, avoiding long periods of standing, and elevating the legs when possible.

14. Varicose Veins

Changes in the circulatory system can cause the appearance of varicose veins, particularly in the legs. These enlarged and twisted blood vessels can be painful and are more common in women who have a family history of them. Supportive stockings, elevating the legs, and regular low-impact exercise can alleviate discomfort and may prevent the formation of new varicose veins.

15. Changes in Hair and Nails

Many women notice that their hair becomes thicker and shinier during pregnancy, due to an increase in estrogen levels that prolong the growth phase of hair. This can result in the appearance of a fuller head of hair. Conversely, some women experience brittle nails that break more easily, which may be due to hormonal changes and the body’s increased demand for nutrients.

As the body changes, moms-to-be need to look after their well-being with patience and self-care.   Even if this is your second, third, or fourth pregnancy you can experience new changes from previous times so always remember to be gentle on yourself as your body grows and changes.

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About the author

Lisa Arneill

Founder of Growing Your Baby and World Traveled Family. Canadian mom of 2 boys, photo addict, lover of bulldogs, and museumgoer. Always looking for our next vacation spot!

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