What to expect from your changing body during pregnancy

Now you’re pregnant, you’re experiencing some big physical changes. Here’s how to get your head around what’s happening and embrace the new you

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Your size

What’s happening?
Don’t expect just your tummy to get larger. Women with no bottoms or boobs may suddenly find they fill out, and as pressure builds on your ankles, they can swell too.

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Why?
During pregnancy, the muscle layer of your womb grows and weighs an extra 2lb, the placenta weighs around 1.3lb, your blood volume increases and weighs more, you have extra fluid, and your body will store extra fat for energy because you’re pregnant.

Embrace it!
“An average-sized woman should aim to put on no more than 2st during pregnancy,” says Mary Brown, a community midwife. There’s no need to over-eat, and you should try some gentle exercise like swimming or yoga.

Your skin

What’s happening?
Some women with acne find their skin improves during pregnancy, while others will get spots for the first time, or suffer facial redness or increased pigmentation, known as melasma. Also, roughly three in five women will get stretch marks to some degree, and while they do fade, they are permanent.

Why?
“Skin problems occur because of hormone levels and increased blood flow to the skin during pregnancy,” explains Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic, London. Stretch marks appear when the collagen protein fibres that give the skin support are broken down by the effect of pregnancy hormones.

Embrace it!

“During pregnancy you have to be careful about any treatment you have for skin problems,” says Dr Lowe.”But you can reduce any dark areas of skin on the face by regularly using a factor 15 sun cream with UVA protection. If acne is really bad, you can be prescribed an antibiotic that’s safe during pregnancy, but make sure you see a dermatologist or your GP for treatment.”

Your hair (head and body!)

What’s happening?
Your hair might grow faster and be thicker, but it can also get drier. Some women find the hair on their body becomes darker or more noticeable too.

Why?
Human hair has a cycle – grow, rest, fall out. But during pregnancy this changes as increased oestrogen levels extend the ‘resting’ phase. Extra hair on your body, including your face, is an annoying side-effect of the increased hair production. “Once you’ve given birth, your oestrogen levels start to drop back to normal and by the time your baby is about 4-6 months old, your hair can start to fall out in really noticeable amounts,” explains hairdresser Verity Wilson. Body hair will thin out again, too.

Embrace it!

“If your hair does feel dry, use deep-conditioning treatments regularly to prevent breakage,” says Verity. “If you’re worried that your body hair has become more noticeable, speak to your doctor as it can be a sign of hormone irregularities.”

Your boobs

What’s happening?
One of the earliest changes to your body will happen to your breasts. They’ll soon feel fuller and more tender, while your nipples darken in colour. Towards the end of your pregnancy, your nipples may secrete a clear or golden-coloured liquid.

Why?
“Pregnancy hormones cause the duct system inside your breasts to grow in preparation for milk production and breastfeeding,” explains Mary Brown. “The clear liquid is called colostrum and it’s what your baby will drink for the first couple of days before your milk supply comes in.”

Embrace it!
“Wearing a good supportive bra, preferably not underwired, is the only thing you can do to ease sore breasts,” says Mary Brown. Breast pads can stop embarrassing leak patches.

Your tummy

What’s happening?
As your bump grows you’ll probably see a dark line running from your pubic bone to your navel. This is called the linea negra, Latin for ‘black line’. Your belly button may also start to stick out.

Why?
You’ve probably never noticed the pale line running from your pubic bone to your belly button – the linea alba – because it’s usually the same colour as your skin. “During pregnancy, hormonal changes can step up production of the pigment melanin, turning this line much darker,” explains Mary Brown. Your belly button usually pops out during the second trimester as your expanding uterus pushes your abdomen forward.

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Embrace it!
“There’s nothing you can do about the linea negra or your belly button,” says Mary Brown. “But they will both go back to normal.”

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