How Pregnancy Changes Your Body and Brain?
Ah! The joy of getting pregnant…having a baby on board.
It’s really one of those best moments in a woman’s life- waiting for your bundle of joy.
As you become pregnant, you know what happens to your belly. You also know the early signs- like a missed period, morning sickness, vomiting, etc. - that catch up with you.
But did you know other changes occur within your body ar this time?
Most of the moms I’ve asked this question aren’t aware of some/all these changes.
I guess you know a few of them…but don’t worry… right below here, we’ll embark on a trip to find out the major pregnancy-associated changes that occur in a woman’s body.
Let’s do this:
NOTE: Before we begin, it’s important to know that these changes do not favor a particular part of your body. They sweep through every other part- from head to toe- as we’ll discover below.
Now let’s go through these changes…
Let me teach you the behavior of your hair under normal circumstances- it grows in cycles, and at any given time, each single strand is either resting, falling out or growing.
Now when a woman becomes pregnant, the hormonal shifts that occur have a direct effect on this hair behavior. More follicles get locked in the resting and growing phases; meaning reduced hair loss during pregnancy.
However, few years following your delivery, most of your follicles jump into the falling out cycle. This contributes to a higher hair loss rate (around 400 more hairs than you usually shed).
Scientific evidence has shown major effects on your brain during the pregnancy period more details here:
MRI scans conducted on the brain of pregnant women have even shown that your brain shrinks during the third trimester!
But it returns to form after birth- smile.
Other long-lasting brain changes that come with pregnancy include:
- Your brain shrinks by up to 6 %. This effect brings about the fuzziness expectant moms keep on complaining about. Good news, however, is that your brain will recover its pre-pregnancy size at around 24 weeks after delivery.
- Amplified emotions as a result of the oxytocin hormone produced at labor and breastfeeding stages. Though this makes women calmer, more trusting, it amps up their aggression toward any threats.
- You might feel tense around strange faces. This comes from the fact that your body is immunosuppressed during early pregnancy, and strangers bear germs that can endanger your fetus- this is common in the first trimester.
- Pregnancy also supercharges your prefrontal cortex- the part of brain that makes multitasking possible and easy for women.
- According to a study carried out at Manchester University in 2010, pregnant women tend to zero out on a man’s face for threat avoidance reasons.
Remember what I told you at the beginning?
Pregnancy sweeps across all the areas of your body…
Do you remember straining to watch a movie when you were pregnant?
Well, that’s a direct effect of the fluid retention as well as hormonal havoc during pregnancy.
Experts say that your eyes corner tend to swell alongside your entire body. And the more it thickens, the more it curves. This hugely affects its ability to refract visual images into your eyes.
Good news- your healthy eyesight will resume a few months after pregnancy!
It’s a known thing that all pregnant moms tend to perceive odors differently. If she becomes aversive to a particular scent, she’ll notice it even more.
One theory explains that this bionic nose in the first trimester helps you keep off food with high levels of toxins and bacteria that might harm your unborn kid.
As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll feel less attuned to smells than usual, since the heightened blood flow to your mucous membranes causes them to swell.
Nearly all expectant moms suffer from gingivitis.
This occurs when the dilated blood vessels make your gums extremely swollen, tender, and weak when it comes to resisting infections.
When you have swollen gums, germs get the friendliest environments to thrive in, and a cavity is likely to occur in your teeth.
Besides, you might experience a more copious saliva due to the hormonal changes.
Luckily, you can prevent this oral disease by brushing your teeth and tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush after meals and morning sicknesses.
You can also floss your mouth using an excellent antibacterial mouthwash.
Above all, consider paying your dentist a visit!
We all know that our immune system helps keep our bodies healthy by hunting down and mercilessly destroy any foreign organisms present in our bodies.
But have you ever asked yourself how your immune system does not kill your fetus which is half-foreign?
That’s because the placentas actively produce an enzyme that deactivates the immune cells circulating in your lymphatic glands or blood.
So your kid will always remain safe.
But what will happen to the mom’s health now that she has a weak immune system?
You think she might be at risk of getting those colds and flu?
In a strange twist of events, the mother’s immunity to viruses gets really high when pregnant!
If you were to list some changes the pregnancy induce changes in your body, you'd definitely say breast changes as one of them.
As much as it’s a physical change, you can’t fail to notice it.
You’ll see your breast becoming flushed, swollen, and tender. Such dramatic changes result from the increased levels of milk producing hormone-prolactin.
Your nipples become erect, and the areola around them expand and turn darker. Blood flow to the breasts rev up and a protective fatty tissue from around them.
You might even get some milk leakage for some weeks- regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding.
Don’t get surprised when your body start experiencing backaches after delivering your baby.
Remember it will take for your stretched abdominal muscles to get strong again, and at the same time, your body is exerting additional weight on the back muscles.
So, get ready for some sessions of back pain right after giving birth (and even during pregnancy for some moms, due to bad posture).
However, you need not worry as this will end by the 6th week of post-pregnancy.
If it does not stop, you might consider visiting a chiropractor.
A super glow is one of the factors that characterize the skin of pregnant women. This roses from the high estrogen levels which boost blood flow to your veins to support a smooth circulation in your unborn baby.
Despite such an attractive skin, these women are prone to some less glamorous skin conditions as well.
For instance, the pregnancy hormone might rev up the oil glands, triggering acne formation.
Other effects include:
- Melisma: a blotchy pigment that forms on your face due to increased melanin levels.
- Spider veins: visibility of the capillaries through the skin due to growing and dilation of blood vessels.
- Skin tags: tiny, leather flaps forming around high friction areas- like undermans and neck.
- Dry itchy skin: stretching as well as hormone-induced skin dehydration.
- Moles: pregnancy hormones also cause the growth and multiplication of spot.
- linear nagra: a dark line that extends along the length of your belly due to increases melanin production.
- Red palms: due to increased blood flow.
And of course, stretch marks due to the hormones and pressure from your growing girth!
Heart (and Circulatory System)
As Ann Bolger, a San Francisco-based cardiologist, states it, women under pregnancy would have their hearts beating harder and harder as more and more blood needs to be circulated during this period.
She goes on to explain that this especially when happens when you exert yourself.
Many more blood vessels are waiting to be filled with blood; the placenta alone contains tens of thousands of these vessels.
Because the pregnancy hormones tend to make these vessels a bit lax, you’ll notice slight blood pressure drops in the second trimester (this explains why you might feel dizzy or faint when you stand up fast).
NOTE: For unclear reasons, your blood vessels might constrict at times (rather than relaxing), resulting in a rise in blood pressure in some women’s.
And this leads to pregnancy-induced hypertension- characterized by less blood flow to the uterus and sometimes an emergency delivery.
As an experienced mom, you must have experienced these effects during pregnancy- morning sickness, heartburns, constipations, indigestions. And all are tell-tale signs of digestion slow down.
It makes your gut sluggish; your stomach takes a while longer to empty its contents; food moves quite slowly through the intestines.
This is partially annoying (imagine the increased gas, acid regurgitation, and uncomfortable constipation) and partially beneficial (the longer food stays in your stomach, the more items will get absorbed for your developing baby.
Did you know that your fetus produces androgen (the male hormone) in your body, regardless of their sex?
When this hormone teams up with the progesterone and estrogen, they promote your libido.
Increased blood circulation to all your erogenous parts as well as heightened vaginal secretions will further help lube up things!
Hot sex in the second semester; some women would even experience multiple orgasms at this time.
After successfully giving birth, you might still have challenges controlling when to pee.
While this is a non-issue for most moms (who can easily control their bladders after around a year of delivering), some who underwent virginal delivery or had large babies might develop a permanent problem.
If you fall into the latter category of women, again I’d advise you to work closely with your doctor so that you may find some help.
Legs and Feet
We have said again and again- with pregnancy comes higher blood volumes. And an expanding uterus that exerts pressure on the veins in groin.
Can you get the result?
Blood and fluids will flood in your lower body- making your ankles balloon and varicose veins bulge.
What’s more, the extra body weight (and potential calcium shortage) can cause aching nocturnal leg cramps.
Your feet aren’t behind in this wave of changes… the hormone relaxin that helps loosen up your pelvis to prepare for birth leads to loosening of the other body parts.
When the hormone’s effect hits your feet, the feet ligaments will stretch out, the bones will “fall apart, ” and your foot will spread. In other words, you’ll experience a full growth foot at this time.
This is where the “barefoot and pregnant” phrase was born.
Pregnancy period is not only characterized by waiting for your baby to arrive but comes with some changes that affect every part of your body. As we’ve seen from our discussions, all these changes help make your fetus safe and helping them grow well until the time to deliver comes.
These changes should not send you into the panic mood as they tend to disappear shortly after pregnancy, including the brain-related changes.