How Your Body Changes in Pregnancy and Postpartum
Everyone’s body changes considerably throughout your lifetime. However, pregnancy and postpartum are one of the most drastic changes your body can undergo. Here are some of the major ones:
The first trimester is the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, counting from your last menstrual cycle. Many of the first trimester discomforts are due to increased hormones. So although you may not look pregnant yet, your body is telling you a different story.
What a silly name as this pregnancy-induced nausea can occur at any point during the day. Those rapid changes in your hormone levels within the first few months can cause your stomach and intestines to contract and relax in new patterns. For more information on morning sickness symptoms and remedies, click here.
One of the first signs reported is that your breasts feel more tender and sore. Although the tenderness may subside over time it can also come back in the third trimester as your breasts prepare to lactate. Try snug, support bras, or sports bras for support. Others find alternating heat and cold therapy can help as well.
As your progesterone levels increase, you may feel more tired than usual. Adequate rest and proper fuel for your body are critical to maintaining energy levels. Trying to go to bed earlier or sleeping in a bit longer can be critical as well as napping. Fueling your body with lots of vegetables and lean protein can also help you to have enough energy throughout the day.
The second trimester starts on week 13 and many of those first trimester symptoms are in the past. As those sensations leave, your body starts to look pregnant. At this point, it is common to feel the baby’s kicks and some additional signs of pregnancy.
Changing Belly and Breasts
Your uterus, housing in your abdomen will start expanding to make room for the growing baby, making you appear pregnant to strangers. Your breasts will also likely get larger during this time, requiring a different, bigger bra with more supportive straps to stabilize yourself.
With hormonal changes during pregnancy, some pregnant couples notice acne or an increase in skin pigmentation. You may notice darkening of your skin on the face and forehead, known as melasma, or a dark line down your abdomen. It is crucial to use sunscreen to help protect your skin.
For those women who didn’t feel themselves during the first trimester, you may start to feel better now, as many of your hormones begin to balance out. You may have less fatigue and mood swings during this period.
The third trimester starts on week 28. As the baby is growing much bigger at this point, you may feel more physical pressure on and in your body. As you get closer to your due date, you may start to feel anxious or excited as motherhood becomes more real.
Baby Grows Quicker
In these last few months, it will seem like the baby is developing much more rapidly than in the previous trimesters. Your baby is getting ready to meet you. Their bones solidify using up your stores of calcium. Including lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits will help you to get enough nutrients through proper nutrition. Avoiding large amounts of carbohydrates can keep your baby to the right size for your body.
As your belly grows and expands, you’re likely to feel more aches in both your abdomen and your back. It’s important to exercise to the point of comfort and take recovery and rest time as well. It can also be helpful to use belly support, to help relieve the pressure you may be feeling.
Braxton Hicks (BH) Contractions
Before you can run a marathon you must train with practice runs. As your body prepares for childbirth, it starts training with irregular “practice” contractions. This is your body’s way of preparing for real labor long before the big day. Most BH Contractions are noticed with exercise or at bedtime. They can also occur when you are dehydrated, so it’s important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Note that not all women will notice their BH Contractions.
Recovery and Postpartum
As you transition into your postpartum body after delivery, you can continue to experience further changes to your body. There are many changes that occur during postpartum, but here are some of the most common things to expect.
Changes in Belly Size
Within the first 24 hours of delivery, your belly will slowly start to decrease in size. Soon after delivery is the ideal time to start belly wrapping. Most women choose to wrap once they get home for a minimum of 6-10 weeks after delivery. The belly wrap should fit snugly but not hinder your breathing or circulation.
If you had a cesarean birth it can take a bit longer to recover. You may be sore and really tired as you’re healing. Some women report needing additional support on their incision to reduce pressure before moving to a postpartum binder.
It takes about six weeks for your uterus to fully return to its pre-pregnant size. Breastfeeding along with belly binding can help with this process and make you feel more normal again. Each woman will take the time her body needs to recover from the 40 weeks of gestation. Don’t rush the process, instead trust your body.
Most women’s milk comes in around day 3 to day 5. As the breasts get engorged, you may need a larger or more supportive bra, nursing tank, and washable breast pads. If you are pumping to feed your baby or to go back to work you may find a pumping bra is extremely helpful.
Fueling Your Body
It’s common to feel fatigued after giving birth, as vitamin deficiencies are typical. Your body loses a lot of blood during delivery, which can lead to iron deficiencies. Additionally, if you’re breastfeeding, you need to continue your prenatal vitamins.
Hydration also plays an important part in recovery and breastfeeding. Keeping a water bottle handy at all times makes it easier to stay hydrated.