The physiological and hormonal changes that women experience during their pregnancy are as unique as the woman. From the very first signs until the time of delivery, a pregnant woman’s body undergoes many different changes. In fact, some of these changes are so strange that it is not uncommon for pregnant women to say they do not recognize their own bodies.
However, these changes are essential in order to facilitate the different needs of both the mother and the fetus during pregnancy.
The uterus grows and twists to the right side of the body during pregnancy. It will more than double in size to accommodate the growing fetus.
Due to the increased blood flow to the cervix, it will change color. The color of the cervix will become a very deep blue-purple.
It is also not uncommon for pregnant women to experience some light spotting after intercourse. If the spotting does not subside after a short period or time, or the flow becomes heavier, these changes should be reported immediately to your physician or caregiver.
The Cardiovascular System
The volume of blood plasma in a pregnant woman can increase by 50%. It is also common for pregnant women to have a lower blood pressure while having a faster heart rate.
Keep in mind that when a woman is pregnant, her sleep position can also affect her resting blood pressure. For example, many expectant moms have mentioned feeling nauseous and sick when they are lying on their back. This sleeping position can cause the blood pressure to drop. The baby will not experience any ill effects as long as the expectant mom changes her sleep position.
During pregnancy, there are also more clotting agents in the bloodstream. This can place the pregnant woman at a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Pregnant women should move around regularly especially if they are sitting or lying down for extended periods of time.
The Gastrointestinal System
As previously mentioned, as a pregnancy progresses, the uterus becomes enlarged. It rises out of the pelvic cavity and can displace organs in the gastrointestinal system like the intestines and the organs. During the 4th and 5th months of pregnancy, digestion slows down considerably. This can lead to excess gas, heartburn and constipation.
Progesterone is a hormone, and relaxes the intestines during pregnancy. Once the intestines slow down the digestive process, food is digested slower and sits inside the intestines longer. This leads to constipation.
In addition, the pressure caused by the uterus sitting on the veins in the lower part of the digestive system can lead to hemorrhoids. This can make using the bathroom extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are several over the counter treatments for hemorrhoids that can be used by pregnant women.
The Respiratory System
The biggest change that occurs in the respiratory system during pregnancy is that the chest cage’s circumference increases. The diaphragm is displaced upward because the uterus is enlarged.
Oxygen use is also increased in pregnancy due to the increased blood flow. However, it is common for pregnant women to feel short of breath. They may also feel some pressure in their chest area. If the feeling become extremely uncomfortable, expectant women should consult with their health care provider. Please note that pregnant women will naturally breathe more deeply even if their rate of respiration remain the same.
The Hormonal (Endocrine) System
Pregnant women may or may not notice that their thyroid becomes larger during pregnancy. This symptom is normal and it typically does not affect the pregnancy. Be sure the health care provider is informed if there is a growth or lump in the thyroid.
Glucose levels can also increase during pregnancy. Extreme level changes should be reported to the physician or health care provider immediately.
Pregnancy is an exciting time for a woman as her body nourishes and prepares to bring a new life into the world. Changes will occur during this time, but any abnormal changes or developments should be reported to your doctor as soon as possible.