As you probably know, your body undergoes some drastic changes when you become pregnant as it grows to accommodate a baby. Hormones are heightened, your muscles, skin and organs stretch, and your sense of smell might be on overload. While these symptoms of pregnancy vary in strength from person to person, there's lots of other things that are going on behind the scenes that you may not even be aware of.
It can be scary seeing and feeling your body change so quickly, but understanding exactly why it's happening can sometimes make it all feel much less daunting.
One thing that will most likely change and be noticeable is your hormone levels. Your endocrine system is a system of glands around your body that produce different hormones that target different things in order to keep you functioning well. The rush of hormones during the early stages of pregnancy can be overwhelming, and to many it's one of the first signs that you've conceived. They will make you feel extremely emotional, moody, and completely exhausted - and yes, they can even cause you to feel that dreaded morning sickness.
Estrogen: This helps support the growth of your baby especially during the very early stages of pregnancy before the placenta is properly formed. It may also play a role in causing your morning sickness.
Progesterone: Levels of progesterone become very high during pregnancy. This allows parts of your body to loosen and increase in size, such as your uterus, as well as stopping your body from contracting and going into labour early, which is sometimes a cause of miscarriages. The loosening and stretching of your muscles and organs can be extremely painful and sore, especially as it's gaining extra weight to support from your baby. Talk to your doctor about pregnancy-safe painkillers, and try to rest up as much as possible - your body is going through a huge change which is just going to be felt in some degree no matter what you do.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG): This hormone is produced by the placenta, and is the hormone detected in some pregnancy tests. It's levels increase and can be detected about 10-11 days after conception. It's sometimes known as the 'pregnancy hormone' as it detects and helps your body maintain a pregnancy from start to finish.
Human placental lactogen (hPL): This hormone helps to regulate your metabolism and breaks food down into nutrients. It's also responsible for stimulating the milk glands for breastfeeding.
With these levels altering throughout your pregnancy to maintain a healthy baby, it's no wonder why you may sometimes feel extreme emotions. Our Theodore Organic Pregnancy Pillow is fantastic for those pregnancy aches and pains. Designed by mums for mums, it provides the support just where you need it as your body changes.
It's NOT your imagination, your taste and smell does actually change drastically during pregnancy. Some people become extremely sensitive to smells in the air and can smell something a mile off, whilst others may crave foods they've never wanted before, and are repulsed by other foods that they once loved. Experts think that this is an instinctive change that pregnant women experience to help protect them from ingesting anything that may be harmful to their child. You may sometimes crave salty things when your body needs some extra salt for example, and may be able to detect 'gone off' food by smell far more easily than usual.
Weight Gain and Water Retention
It's completely normal to gain a few pounds during the second and third trimester of your pregnancy. Your body is craving more calories than usual to support your baby, and it's important not to try and restrict your intake. All jokes aside, you're eating for two! It is, however, important that you try to stick to nutritious foods, and stay away from so much junk food, even though that's what you may be craving. If you crave a takeaway, try to do a homemade alternative, or "fakeaway", as the nutritional value will be much better.
You may also notice your body swelling up - rings may not fit your fingers, shoes may hurt and your ankles in particular may feel swollen and achy. This is due to (you guessed it) a hormone increase which allows your body to retain fluids to support the pregnancy and help blood flow up from your legs to your heart. Take breaks when you can if your body is aching, put your feet up and rest them as much as possible to help the blood flow, and try to keep hydrated as this is exactly what your body needs.
Hormones aren't the only thing that may disrupt your digestion. As your baby grows and starts to push on your organs, you may experience things such as heart burn, indigestion and constipation. Try to avoid eating large meals, and eat little and often instead as this will help to keep the pressure off your stomach.
Hair, Nails and Skin
During pregnancy you may notice your hair and nails thickening out and growing faster than usual. Again, this is caused by the increased levels of hormones that are supporting your baby's growth. However, don't be alarmed if you lose clumps of hair in the months after giving birth as this is just your body returning back to 'normal' and levelling itself out.
Pretty significant changes may also happen to your skin. With increased blood flow, your face may become brighter which is known as the 'pregnancy glow'. You may also experience dark patches on your skin called 'melasma' which will come and go once you've given birth.
Stretch marks all over are expected, and whilst they may appear dark at first, they will fade away over time, and there's plenty of moisturising products out there that will help. It's easy to be conscious about them, but wear them with pride - your body has grown a child inside it and it's completely normal. Your skin may become dry and itchy, but don't worry, this is normal to a certain degree - however, if it becomes excessive and unbearable then do get in touch with your doctor.
Ultimately, there's nothing you can do to prevent these changes, but understanding why they are happening can be a massive relief. Your body is doing miraculous things whilst pregnant, so be kind to yourself, allow yourself to say"no" and rest when you need it, and just know that it will all return back to normal again before you know it. Your pregnancy may sometimes feel overwhelming, but it will all be worth it in the end!
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