Physiological Changes During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body goes through many emotional and physiological changes. These changes are a natural part of pregnancy and a better understanding will help you cope with them. Pregnancy is more than just the growth of the uterus and the embryo.

Fertilization and early embryo formation cause significant changes in all of your body's systems. This is how your body prepares and helps the pregnancy develop into successful childbirth. Each woman is affected differently. Understanding the changes and effects on the various body systems helps the burden during pregnancy, reduces anxiety and unnecessary tensions. Some of the symptoms go away immediately after birth and most of them disappear within six weeks of delivery.


Normally, the uterus weighs 60 grams and is as large as a chicken egg. By the end of a pregnancy it will weigh 1 kilogram and contain a baby, a placenta and more than a quart of water.


As the uterus grows it presses against the woman's abdominal organs. The uterus presses against the bladder, stomach and lungs, the arteries, veins and nerves and stretches the abdominal skin. This results in frequent urination, heartburn, congestion in the veins, difficulty breathing and other conditions that will pass after birth as the uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size.

Common Physiological Symptoms During Pregnancy


Frequent Urination - Make sure you drink plenty of water and cranberry juice in order to prevent urinary tract infections. Perform exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor (ex.: Kegel exercises) to control unwanted urination. Make sure you relieve yourself on a regular basis. You must also be careful to maintain proper hygiene to prevent infection. Perform periodic urine tests during pregnancy to avoid infections.


Heartburn - The growing uterus puts pressure on the sphincter of the stomach. Eating small, frequent meals, avoiding spicy foods, fried foods, oils, and eating almonds and ginger can help ease heartburn. Drinking a lot of water or soda water (seltzer) with small sips, lying on your left side supported by pillows or in a half sitting position also are helpful in controlling the heartburn. You should try to take walk after meals. Avoid lying down immediately after eating to relieve and prevent the onset of heartburn.


Nausea/Vomiting - Nausea and/or vomiting is caused by hormonal and chemical changes during pregnancy. An empty stomach may increase the feeling of nausea. Try eating dry snacks, rich in carbohydrates such as, crackers or biscuits before bed and prior to getting out of bed in the morning.


Fatigue - This is caused by progesterone disturbances. It is a sign that your body needs to rest.


Sleep disturbances -  This can be caused by frequent urination, the inability to find a comfortable sleeping position in bed, fetal movements or stress and worry. Avoiding caffeine and using soft cushions to improve comfort can help. Talk through your fears and anxieties in order to reduce stress.


Constipation - Constipation happend when there is a decrease in intestinal function. The colon absorbs excess fluid as a result of the rise in progesterone. This can be alleviated through proper nutrition. Drink 2-3 liters of liquid per day. Drink a glass of hot water in the morning before a meal. Include a variety of fiber rich foods in your diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, prunes and dried figs. It is recommended to keep up physical activity like walking and exercising daily.


Hemorrhoids - Hemorrhoids occur due to the expansion and congestion of blood vessels. In order to prevent hemorrhoids try to avoid constipation by drinking plenty of fluids and consuming enough fiber. Hemorrhoids can be relieved by local treatment and taking warm baths.


Back Pain - Back pain is caused by a change in the center of gravity, weight gain and muscle tension, due to the need to maintain stability of the body. The relaxin and progesterone hormones sometimes cause softening of the ligaments, joint laxity and instability in the ankles. Back pain can be reduced by exercise such as the rolling basin, correct posture, walking, wearing comfortable shoes, back rubs and pressure applied to the painful area. Try to maintain a straight back when lifting objects.


Leg Cramps - Leg cramps occur when there is poor absorption of calcium or local deficiency of blood supply. To relieve leg cramps try lifting the leg that is cramped, straightening the knee and facing your heel forward while applying pressure against it. Massage the area with oil or natural cream like Bengay or Tiger Oil. Taking a hot bath before bed can also help.


Swelling of the Hands and Feet - Swelling is caused by the accumulation of fluids during pregnancy. Tight jewelry should be removed (such as rings). Elevate your legs when resting and wear comfortable shoes.


Varicose Veins - Varicose veins are caused due to the expansion and vascular congestion. Varicose veins usually occur in the legs, vulva and anus. To relieve these symptoms, raise the end of your bed to 10 cm. This angle reduces congestion. Wearing elastic socks before starting your day, exercising your feet also help. Pay attention to any changes and if you notice redness, local heat or bleeding consult your doctor.


Gum Disease - Gum disease occurs because gum blood vessels are influenced by pregnancy hormones. As pregnancy progresses the gums might swell and bleed easily. Brush your teeth (gently) two to three times a day and visit the dentist or oral hygienist at least once during pregnancy.


Anemia - Anemia is a common problem among pregnant women and is characterized by feeling constantly tired. To prevent anemia eat iron rich foods such as green vegetables (green peppers, broccoli, lettuce), nuts and egg yolks, red meat and turkey, and whole grains. Additionally, you can take iron tablets supplements.


Darkening of the Skin - The pigment of the skin changes due to hormonal changes and/or sun exposure. Brown spots (chloasma) around the eyes and nose can appear during the 3rd trimester. Some women will notice a dark line (linea negra) from the naval down. Most symptoms disappear or decrease six months to a year after delivery.


Mood Swings - Mood swings are a result of hormones and anxiety about the upcoming birth. Often a heart-to-heart talk can improve your mood and situation in general.


Pregnancy is a normal phenomenon during which you will experience different and new emotions. Try to enjoy this period in your life.

Each pregnancy is different. Follow the natural rhythm of your pregnancy. This will let you enjoy each experience during this special time and reduce tension. This is the time to slow down and listen to yourself.