16 Changes a Pregnant Woman Can Expect
When you’re having a baby, your body experiences changes. And whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, knowing what to expect can make pregnancy easier to manage and more enjoyable – so you can focus on this exciting time in your life.
Listed below are 16 common changes that you might experience. But no matter the symptoms, we’ll be here to help you feel your best throughout your pregnancy.
How Your Body Changes During Pregnancy
1. Body Aches
As your pregnancy progresses, you might feel aches throughout your body. These aches are common in the back, abdomen, groin area, and thighs. You may also have backaches and aching near the pelvic bone due to the pressure of the baby’s head. If you experience these aches, you can try lying down to rest, or applying heat.
2. Breast Changes
Your breasts will increase in size and fullness as your body prepares to breastfeed. This might cause your breasts to feel full, heavy, or tender. Towards the end of your pregnancy, you might also begin to leak thick, yellowish fluid called colostrum, which is the first milk that your breasts produce for the baby. If you’re experiencing discomfort, you may want to make sure you’re wearing a bra with good support. For leaking, you can put pads in your bra to help absorb the discharge.
Constipation is another common change that pregnant women experience. Constipation symptoms can include having hard, dry stools, less than three bowel movements a week, and/or having painful bowel movements. The higher levels of hormones during your pregnancy slow down digestion and relax bowel muscles which is what can cause constipation.
To help ease constipation pain, you can try:
- Drinking eight to 10 glasses of water each day
- Giving up caffeinated beverages
- Eating foods that are rich in fiber
- Doing mild exercises
Many women experience dizziness during their pregnancies. This symptom is caused by several different changes throughout your body, like the growth of more blood vessels, pressure from the uterus expanding, and the body’s increased need for food. If you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded, try standing slowly, wearing loose clothing, and lying on your left side. You may also want to avoid standing for long periods of time and skipping meals.
5. Fatigue & Problems Sleeping
Another common symptom during pregnancy is fatigue or exhaustion. It’s very common for you to feel tired in your first trimester, energized in your second trimester, and then tiredness again in your third trimester. This fatigue is your body’s way of telling you that you need more rest as it changes throughout your pregnancy.
If you’re having trouble sleeping you can try:
- Lying on your left side while you sleep
- Using pillows for support behind your back, tucked between your knees, or under your stomach
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, and only use your bed for sleep and sex
- Take a nap if you need one
- Drink fewer fluids in the hours before you go to bed
6. Heartburn & Indigestion
You may also experience heartburn and indigestion during your pregnancy. These symptoms are caused by pregnancy hormones and the pressure that comes with your uterus growing. The hormones relax the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, which allows food and acid to come back up into your throat. This is especially common later in your pregnancy as the baby grows and pushes on your stomach.
To help ease heartburn and indigestion, you can try:
- Eating more slowly
- Eating smaller, more frequent meals
- Drinking fluids between meals but not with your meals
- Avoiding greasy foods, citrus-y foods & juices, and spicy food
- Not eating or drinking within a few hours of bedtime or lying down right after meals
Lots of women experience hemorrhoids during their pregnancy. Hemorrhoids are swollen, bulging veins in the rectum that can cause itching, pain, and bleeding. They’re caused by the increase in blood volume during pregnancy, which can cause veins to enlarge, as well as the expanding uterus.
For hemorrhoid relief, you can try:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Eating foods that are high in fiber
- Speaking with your doctor about products to help soothe hemorrhoids
Itching is another discomfort that you might experience during pregnancy. This feeling is often in the abdomen, but the palms of the hands and soles of the feet are also common areas to feel itching. Itchiness might be caused by pregnancy hormones and stretching skin. If you’re feeling itchy, you might want to try using a more gentle soap and moisturizing cream, and avoiding hot baths, showers, and uncomfortable fabrics.
9. Leg Cramps
Throughout your pregnancy, you might have sudden muscle spasms in your legs or feet. These most often happen at night and are due to changes in the way that your body is processing calcium while you’re pregnant. Gently stretching, getting mild exercise, and eating calcium-rich foods can help you ease leg and foot cramps. You can also speak to your doctor about taking calcium supplements.
10. Morning Sickness
Morning sickness is very common in pregnant women. It most often starts before 9 weeks and goes away by 14 weeks, but it may be longer or shorter for some women. There are several options for treating your nausea, including:
If your nausea seems more severe than typical morning sickness, you may be experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum, and you should speak to your doctor.
11. Nasal Problems
Many women experience nasal problems like nosebleeds and stuffiness. These symptoms are caused by the increased amount of blood in your body, as well as the pregnancy hormones that act on the tissues of your nose. If you’re feeling stuffy, you can gently blow your nose, drink plenty of fluids, or try using a cool mist humidifier. To stop a nosebleed, squeeze your nose for a few minutes.
12. Numb or Tingling Hands
During your pregnancy, you might have feelings of swelling, tingling, and numbness in your fingers and hands. This numbness and tingling are caused by the swelling of tissues in the narrow passages in your wrists. To alleviate this symptom, make sure you’re frequently resting your hands, and you can also ask your doctor about splints to help keep your wrists straight.
13. Stretch Marks and Other Skin Changes
Stretch marks are red, pink, or brown streaks on the skin. They are most commonly seen on the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and breasts. These scars are caused by the skin being stretched and usually appear in the second half of pregnancy. Some women might also experience their nipples becoming darker, a dark line on the skin that runs from the belly button to the pubic hairline, and patches of darker skin on the face. Stretch marks and other skin changes require patience and often fade after delivery.
Mild swelling in the face, hands, or ankles is another common symptom for pregnant women. As your due date approaches, your swelling may become more noticeable. To help get rid of swelling, you can try:
- Drinking eight to 10 glasses of fluids each day
- Avoiding caffeinated drinks and salty foods
- Resting and elevating your feet
15. Urinary Frequency and Leaking
You may also have bladder control problems during your pregnancy. The baby pushes down on the bladder, urethra, and pelvic floor muscles as it grows, which might lead to more frequent need to urinate, as well as leaking of urine when sneezing, coughing, or laughing. If you’re having bladder problems, try taking more frequent bathroom breaks, drinking lots of fluids, and strengthening your pelvic muscles with Kegel exercises.
16. Varicose veins
During pregnancy, your blood volume will increase, which might cause your veins to enlarge. Additionally, the pressure on the large veins behind the uterus causes the blood to move more slowly when it returns to the heart. This is what causes varicose veins in the legs and anus during pregnancy. To avoid varicose veins, you should wear loose fit clothing on your legs, and sit with your legs and feet raised when possible.
How We Can Help
These challenges–and your desire to deliver a healthy, happy baby–are why Dr. Grove and Dr. Skorberg go the extra mile when it comes to listening to our obstetrics patients and giving them straight-talk advice and heartfelt reassurance.
The doctors at A Woman’s Healing Center has delivered upwards of 12,000 babies in the last 12 years. With all that experience, we’re proud to have a much lower than average rate of C-sections for our hospital and area. We believe that each birth is a joy, and we love to share it with moms and their loved ones.
If you want to speak to one of our doctors about changes with pregnancy, please contact us or fill out the form below to request an appointment.
- You can find more information on common changes that come with pregnancy from the Office on Women’s Health.
- Read more about our Obstetrics services here.