15 Shocking Body Changes Most Women Wish They’d Known About Before Getting Pregnant
It's widely recognized that getting pregnant can come with the possibility of bigger breasts and stretch marks, but many other parts of your body can go through some changes of their own. Most women are aware of the obvious things that can happen, but there are a number of things to know when preparing your body for pregnancy that most women wish they knew beforehand. These changes shouldn't scare you off from getting pregnant, but it's useful to know what to expect when it comes to your body and birth.
"Pregnancy is one of the most magical functions a human body performs," Evangeline Ramos-Gonzales, M.D., an OB/GYN with the Institute for Women's Health. "You’re growing a baby inside you, and although these 40 weeks can be among the most special of your life, they’re also filled with the most changes you’re likely to ever experience at once. Although common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, breast growth and tenderness, and increased sense of smell are widely discussed, many women are shocked by some of the more frequent side effects of pregnancy that no one really talks about."
If you're pregnant — or thinking about becoming pregnant soon — you might want to know more about what to expect over the course of the next nine months.
While most women do not think pregnancy changes can extend to their mouth, it's important to keep an eye out for your oral health at this time. “Progesterone produced during pregnancy is the culprit that makes the mouth more conducive for bacterial growth that contributes to gum disease, as well as inflammation,” Dr. Leslie Renee Townsend, DDS of Jefferson Dental Care tells Bustle. “For women who have gingivitis or gum disease before pregnancy, hormonal fluctuation can exacerbate inflammation, worsening the symptoms and causing pain.”
2. Lower Back Pain
Don't be surprised if you've got some aches and pains around your lower back while pregnant. "This is due to the stress put on the lower back, as a woman’s center of gravity changes as a result of a growing uterus," Dr. Angela Jones, Astroglide’s resident sexual health advisor, tells Bustle. If you are pregnant, and finding that lower back pain is making you uncomfortable, speak with your doctor about ways to help relieve the strain on this area.
3. A Dark Line Down The Center Of Your Growing Belly
It's common for women to get a dark line down the center of their growing belly. "This is called the 'linea nigra' and is due to the hormones of pregnancy," says Jones. "It typically resolves post pregnancy."
4. The Vulva Gets Larger
During pregnancy, Jones says it's common for many parts of the body to get larger, including the vulva. "These changes resolve post-delivery and can be attributed to increased circulating volume, hormones of pregnancy, as well as the vulva being in a dependent portion of your body," says Jones. During pregnancy, the volume of blood in the body increases by 20 percent, and mucous membranes tend to swell more during later stages of pregnancy, which may both result in this bodily change.
The increase of the hormone progesterone can cause constipation, which can unfortunately increase your risk of hemorrhoids. "The growing uterus also compresses the return of blood flow in blood vessels in the pelvis, leading to dilation of the veins," Dr. Erin Higgins, clinical instructor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health, tells Bustle. "To help prevent hemorrhoids, be sure to stay hydrated, avoid straining, and eat a diet high in fiber."
6. Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are dilated veins that result from the increased pressure during pregnancy. "This is again an effect of the higher levels of progesterone, which relaxes blood vessels, and the growing uterus increasing the pressure in blood vessels in the leg," says Higgins. "A lot of this is also related to genetics, so it can be hard to prevent completely. Wearing compression stockings and keeping the feet elevated can help reduce swelling and minimize the appearance of varicose veins."
Most people don't discuss it with their friends, but constipation is one of the most common side effects of pregnancy. "There are a number of reasons for this condition, from pregnancy hormones that can slow down the motility of the intestinal system, to prenatal supplements, to a poor diet,"says Ramos-Gonzales. "If you’re experiencing constipation, talk to your OB/GYN to review what foods you’re eating, what vitamins you’re taking and how much water you consume. The odds are likely you can treat this condition naturally."
8. Chloasma or Melasma
Hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy can lead to an increase in the production of melanin, a substance that gives color to your skin, eyes and hair. "As a result, up to 70 percent of women develop darkened patches of skin on their face and on their body known as either chloasma or melasma," says Ramos-Gonzales. This tends to resolve in most cases after giving birth.
9. Foot Growth
Most women know that their feet can swell during pregnancy — but they can also grow permanently too. "It’s common for women’s feet to go up a whole shoe size during pregnancy," says Ramos-Gonzales. "Your body is gaining weight and putting more pressure on your feet, which can result in swelling. But you’re also producing a hormone called relaxin, which helps to loosen the body’s ligaments as it prepares for delivery. Relaxin can loosen your foot joints as well, often resulting in permanent foot growth."
10. Increase Vaginal Discharge
Don't panic if you start to see some more discharge on your underwear during pregnancy. "Increased hormone production leads to increased vaginal discharge," says Ramos-Gonzales. This discharge is usually creamy and white, and not associated with the foul odor, itching or burning as when infection is present. Once the discharge develops, it remains for the duration of the pregnancy, and many pregnant women opt to use a panty liner to manage the associated symptoms."
11. Changes In Breathing
Although your breathing rate does not actually increase in pregnancy many women feel that they have to work harder to breath. "The oxygen demand increases in pregnancy, which the body compensates for by increasing the volume of air inhaled and exhaled in each breath," Stephanie Zobel, MD, OB/GYN at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, tells Bustle. This change along with the rising uterus pushing the diaphragm creates a sense of breathlessness, which troubles some pregnant women. "Slowing down when feeling this often allows the sensation to pass," she says.
12. Gastrointestinal Issues
The whole gut slows down and dilates in pregnancy, which can lead to heartburn, constipation, gallstones, gas pain and GI distress. "Eating small, frequent meals instead of three large meals, staying well hydrated, increasing fiber intake, avoiding foods that cause heartburn, slowing eating, and chewing well can all help reduce these symptoms," says Zobel.
13. The Vagina May Appear Blue
It might sound crazy, but your vagina can start to take on a blue hue, thanks to increased blood flow. "In the very early part of pregnancy, women can develop a 'blue' vagina, which is also called the Chadwick sign of pregnancy," Linda Burke-Galloway, MD, MS, FACOG tells Bustle. "A 'blue' cervix could also develop which is called 'Goodell' sign."
14. Swollen Eyes & Lips
Don't be alarmed if your eyes and lips seem larger or puffier during pregnancy. "There are many mucous membranes throughout the body, especially in the face that enlarge and fill with increased blood and fluids," Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN tells Bustle. "Eyes can appear more swollen or puffy, and lips enlarge and gums swell."
Many women describe the feeling of having a cold during pregnancy as a result of the nasal congestion. "The mucous membranes throughout the body, especially in the nose, are enlarged and filled with the increased blood and fluids in the nose giving the sensation of feeling congestion," says Ross. "Having a bloody nose during pregnancy is not unusual."
These symptoms may seem surprising, but you can rest assured knowing they're just a common part of pregnancy.