For most women the desire to become
pregnant is one of the strongest driving forces in life. Not
surprisingly, pregnancy is a time of great fulfillment and joy.
However, this is also a time where there are most physical and
mental changes. It is important to not let stress or worry
overcome this time of happiness.
Below are the physical changes during
pregnancy that a woman may experience:
1. Changes in breasts
During the early stages of pregnancy, the new mother may experience
breast tenderness and fullness. This may be followed by enlargement
of the breast. Enlargement is caused by an increase in the size of
milk glands and also an increase in the amount of fat surrounding
the breast. As days pass, veins become more visible. Once the
pregnancy is fully established, it may be possible to press
colostrums (a yellow fluid) from the nipples. The areola (the dark
ring around the nipple) enlarges and darkens as pregnancy
progresses. Lubrication glands in the areola increase in size and
can be seen as small projections from the surface of the skin. These
are known as Montgomery’s tubercles. Stretch marks may appear.
complex system of milk synthesizing and transport agents starts to
The weight gain in pregnancy should be kept at the average of 11kg.
Usually, 2 to 3 kgs are gained during the first 20 weeks of
pregnancy and 1 kg per fortnight thereafter.
2. Changes in weight
3. Changes in the uterus
The uterus grows to accommodate the baby during pregnancy. The
expanding uterus pushes the heart, the lungs, the stomach and
4. Changes in Cervix
The cervix softens during pregnancy. At full term, it becomes
stretchable so that effacement and dilatation can commence during
5. Changes in Ovaries
The ovaries are slightly enlarged during pregnancy.
6. Changes in Vagina
A slight white vaginal discharge, which results from an increase in
the normal vaginal secretion is often noticed during pregnancy. The
woman should inform her doctor if the discharge is profuse, curdy
and accompanied by soreness or itching.
7. Changes in Blood Volume
An expecting mother will have about 2 more liters of blood (which
increases gradually from about the 10th to 34th week of pregnancy)
than usual because it is needed to supply oxygen and nourishment to
the baby. As such the woman needs to take more iron to facilitate
the manufacture of red blood cells, so that the blood does not
become diluted. The blood volume returns to normal after delivery.
8. Changes in the Heart
At the end of the 28th week, the heart is being cramped into the
chest cavity by the expanding uterus. It enlarges in late pregnancy.
Usual non-pregnant woman’s heart pumps 70 beats a minute, while the
pregnant woman’s heart pumps 10 beats faster.
9. Changes in Blood Pressure
Sporadic drops in the blood pressure will occur throughout various
stages of a woman’s pregnancy.
10. Changes in the Lungs
The effect of the pregnancy hormones on the brain and the lower
concentration of carbon dioxide in the lungs result in shortness of
breath. The lungs will be enlarged and displaced by the enlarged
uterus. This may cause some discomfort to the mother.
11. Changes in Urinary System
The kidneys will enlarge. They have to filter 50 per cent more blood
than in the non-pregnant state. The enlarging uterus compresses and
congests the bladder. This increases the frequency of urination,
sometimes leading to slight incontinence.
12. Changes in Gastro-Intestinal Tract
The enlarged uterus in pregnancy displaces the stomach and the
intestines. Progesterone causes indigestion and constipation. The
gall bladder enlarges and becomes flaccid.
13. Changes in the mouth
Gums may be swollen and puffy and gums may bleed more easily.
14. Changes in Bones and Joints
Hormones during pregnancy have been known to soften bones especially
around the back and the pelvis. This softening is in preparation for
the eventual birth of the baby whereby the cervix will open.
However, due to this softness, excessive walking and carrying of
heavy loads can really damage the woman's back, sometimes causing
15. Changes in Biochemistry
The mother’s metabolism alters to meet the nutritional, respiratory
and excretory demands of the child in her. Her body prepares for
labor and lactation. Water retention, fat levels in the blood
increase, albumin falls in concentration as blood volume increases
and antibody concentrations decrease while fibrinogen increases.
Protein is withdrawn from the circulation. New red blood cells are
made by using up the iron. Copper concentration in the blood
increases. Calcium and magnesium are carried by the diminishing
amounts of protein, causing them to decrease.
16. Changes in Skin
Some pregnant women have better complexions than when they were not
pregnant, while others are less fortunate. Stretch marks develop
over the abdomen, breasts, thighs and derriere of over 75 per cent
of women. Pigmentation occurs in a thin vertical line stretching
from the lower end of the breast bone (sternum) to the pubic bone.
This dark line (linea nigra) is more obvious between pubis and
Some women may develop pigmentation of the face around the eyes, on
the forehead and cheeks, and the mother may look as though she is
wearing a mask – the so-called mask of pregnancy. Both abdominal and
facial pigmentation fade once the pregnancy is over. Varicose veins
appear in the lower limbs and the vulva of some women. Some women
may have the vascular spiders as well.
17. Changes in Hair and Nails
Hair and nails will grow more quickly during pregnancy. This is
partially due to the additional hormones that the body is producing.
The mother will notice that your hair is shinier, bright and
thicker. However, this addition may be lost after pregnancy.