Pregnancy leaves dazzling gifts in the most unassuming places: a few extra pounds in the breasts, a radiant glow on the face and an inside-out belly button that pops like a prize. Whether you’ve just begun your pregnancy journey or are already halfway to the finish line, there are several changes you should expect in your body. From a change in breast size to swollen feet, brace yourself for the ride!
From top to toe, here is a guide to help you prepare.
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If you have a stubborn crop of hair, pregnancy may herald a tide of welcome changes to your mane. Oestrogen can summon hair growth by increasing the length of the growing phase of hair follicles. As a result, hair ends up looking healthier and more luxuriant. Thick hair growth may not be restricted only to the scalp, and may manifest in other parts of the body, sometimes in unwelcome areas like the belly, back, nipples and upper lip. Many women shed hair after childbirth as a result of falling oestrogen levels, and while this is an expected occurrence, it can be alarming to find falling clumps of hair. Rest assured that hair volume and texture is usually restored within six months of your baby’s birth.
Pregnancy can give rise to bleeding gums, primarily because the body becomes more susceptible to infections during this phase. With a relatively weaker immune system, it is imperative to maintain optimum oral hygiene to prevent infections of the gums and gingivitis. There is a common misperception that visiting a dentist while pregnant may prove dangerous to the unborn child. However, doctors suggest that dental X-rays are perfectly permissible as far as the belly is safeguarded from radiation.
The most visible souvenirs of pregnancy are often emblazoned on the skin, the most common being stretch marks. Stretch marks usually appear as whitish, pinkish or purplish lines across the breasts, belly, bottom and thighs and sometimes tend to itch. They are caused by a reduction of collagen or connective tissue in regions where the skin has seen a dramatic expansion. Women who are overweight, carrying large babies or who have rapidly gained weight during pregnancy are especially prone to stretch marks. There are several ways in which stretch marks can be alleviated.
Speak to your doctor about ointments and serums you can use if you are particularly bothered by its effects. Other skin changes during pregnancy include a ‘pregnancy glow’, brought on by augmented blood circulation, pigment changes and dark lines along the navel.
Your breasts may begin to feel fuller and more tender to the touch during pregnancy, and you may find yourself going up by one or more cup sizes. Invest in comfy maternity or nursing bras that you can continue using after your baby’s arrival. Additionally, you may find the skin around your nipples darkened, and as you enter your third trimester, you may even notice your breasts leaking colostrum, a milky substance that precedes regular breast milk.
The Belly Button
The belly button sometimes decides to do a somersault during pregnancy, popping out and protruding through the second and third trimesters.
Pregnancy prepares your pelvis to become more capacious in order to harbour and birth a baby over the next nine months. The principal hormone responsible for loosening the pelvis is one called relaxin, which also plays a role in making the joints and ligaments laxer. This relaxing of the joints can catalyse sciatica or lower back pain. If you suffer from joint and ligament pain, speak to a physiotherapist to ease you into a yoga or exercise routine that will help fortify your core and relieve your pain.
It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to go up a whole shoe size during pregnancy. Pregnancy releases growth hormones that may be responsible for this change. Research has evidenced that pregnancy tends to grow feet and flatten arches. The body also goes into overdrive producing fluids during pregnancy, which can lead to swollen feet and ankles.
As you uncover new gifts through your pregnancy, it is important to remind yourself that while some may cause discomfort, you’re making steady progress towards the finish line, everyday. Once you’ve made it, you’ll receive your greatest gift of all. And then, the wait will be worth it.