Pregnancy and how it affects my body.

Here is an interesting fact: did you know the uterus in a non-pregnancy state weights about 60gm with a cavity of 5-10ml and measures 7.5cm in length? And at term (last stage of pregnancy) weights 900-1000gm & measures 35cm in length with cavity increasing by 500-1000 times? 

One may ask during pregnancy why am I always tired? Why do I feel nauseated and at the same time hungry? Why am I always out of breath and why is my heart beating faster? Is it normal that I am gaining this much amount of weight? Why are my breasts painful and enlarged? Are my stretch marks going to go away? Am I sick? Is this normal?

No worries, all these are all progressive anatomical, physiological, and biochemical changes to our bodies due to maternal adaptation to the increasing demand of a growing fetus. There are hormones that play vital changes to the body of the mother. These hormones are estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) & human placental lactogen. These hormones are expected to increase significantly making changes to our body. 

Let’s start with our breasts: The breasts will be enlarged especially seen in a newly pregnant mother with tenderness as result of increased level of estrogen hormone. The nipples become larger, erectile, deeply pigmented, and sometimes show secretion (colostrum) which can be squeezed out in about 12 weeks of pregnancy. The secretion is sticky, thick and yellowish. Sometimes there is also a whitish discharge from the vagina as well.

Due to the growing fetus, the uterus becomes enlarged. This mechanical stretching pushes the bladder downward which causes frequent urination and pushes upward to the abdomen and diaphragm which causes fast breathing. But the fast breathing is also caused by the increased demand for oxygen by 20-40% for the placenta and maternal tissue. 

The other factor that we see during pregnancy is weight gain. During pregnancy in the early weeks, the patient is expected to lose weight due to nausea & vomiting. But in the subsequent months there will be progressive weight gain. The total weight gain during the course of a singleton (1 Fetus) of pregnancy is over 11 kg including the weight of fetus, uterus, placenta, etc… Monitoring weight is an essential part of antenatal care follow-up. It must be periodic and regular to detect abnormalities like being overweight or underweight which might be a sign of pregnancy related disease like preeclampsia (hypertension), diabetes & intrauterine weight restrictions or under growth of the fetus.

Our skin is the other body part that is affected by the increase in estrogen & progesterone. We observe changes like “chloasma” (pregnancy mask on the face, around eyes & forehead), which usually disappears after delivery. “Stria gravidarum” is also another change on the skin observed. These markers manifest on the skin like brown and dark color more on the abdomen, breast, and thighs with varying length. The hormone called aldosterone plays a vital role in these markers which is increased during pregnancy. But it can also happen because of the mechanical stretching of skin. Bear in mind we can also witness this state in obese person because of excessive weight gain.

Unstable behavior and mood swings are also common changes associated with high levels of estrogen. Sometimes, rare conditions like hair loss can also manifest. However, these all are natural phenomena and journeys towards motherhood that every woman will experience. 

If there is any abnormal vagina bleeding, sudden pushing down pain, excessive vomiting, excessive decrease or gain in weight, one shall seek medical attention.