Anyone that has endured a pregnancy will tell you that there are an abundance of both emotional and physical changes that will evolve over the course of 9 months, some that are welcome and some that are not so welcome.
While many of these changes are inevitable, you can prepare now by understanding what the common changes include and when you can expect to experience them.
As you can imagine, we field a lot of questions from our pre-natal care patients, especially as they pertain to their bodies. The following topics are 3 of the most commonly discussed areas with our mothers-to-be regarding their outward appearance:
1. Skin Changes and Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
Beginning early on in your pregnancy (1st trimester), you may enjoy what others notice as the pregnancy glow. The “glow” is actually a result of the influx of the hormones HCG and progesterone in your newly pregnant body. These hormones cause your glands to produce more oil, which in turn, makes your face appear shinier. Your body’s increase in blood flow (approximately 50% during pregnancy), also lends to a brighter or more fuller looking face. If you experience the pregnancy glow, count your blessings, as the increase in oil can also make your skin too oily and sometimes trigger acne.
Many of our mothers are curious as to the brownish line that develops between their belly button and pubic bone. This pregnancy line, or linea nigra, can show up earlier in your pregnancy, but typically reveals itself around the 5th month and grows darker as your pregnancy develops. Go ahead and make friends with your linea nigra, as there is nothing you can do about it and it will fade away on its own soon after your delivery.
As your skin expands to accommodate baby, so does your potential to develop stretch marks. Although an unwelcome side effect of your pregnancy, rest assured that at least half of moms-to-be get them, usually in the 6th and 7th months of pregnancy. Despite what you may see advertised, there’s not much you can do to prevent them. But the good news is that the stretch marks will significantly fade away over time, though they won’t disappear completely. If they bother you postpartum, talk to your OBGYN or dermatologist to determine the safest treatment options for you.
2. Breast Growth During Pregnancy
There’s no formula to calculate your anticipated bra size come 9 months, but you can count on hosting ever-growing breasts starting at 10 weeks. Your increased estrogen and progesterone levels are encouraging the growth of milk-producing glands to prepare for breast feeding. Each of your breasts may increase at least one bra size, but that’s not the only thing that may cause your bra to feel tight as you get closer to your due date.
Your rib cage expands during pregnancy to make room for the internal organs that are pushed into the chest cavity by your uterus. They’re also expanding to make room for your lungs which need extra oxygen. With both your breasts and ribs expanding, you’ll most likely need to seek comfort in a larger bra size.
By week 36, your milk glands are expanding and filling with colostrum, thanks to an increase in the hormone oxytocin. This might make your already larger breasts feel a bit lumpy. It’s important to inform your healthcare provider on these developments as they are less apparent than other changes to your body that can be easily seen during an appointment.
3. Hair Growth During Pregnancy
When you reach the 20th week of your pregnancy, you’re probably enjoying the benefits of all of those added pregnancy hormones in the form of thicker hair and stronger nails. However, thanks to the extra hormones and vitamins that can make hair grow faster and stronger, you may also start to notice more unwanted hairs.
Don’t be surprised to see increased hair growth on your breasts, stomach, legs, and possibly the face. While it’s not the most attractive of pregnancy’s side effects, take comfort in knowing that these hair changes aren’t usually permanent and most women lose a significant amount of hair in the postpartum period. You may just find it’s an inconvenience to shave or tweeze more often in those unwanted places. But do just that – stick to plucking, waxing and shaving for removal – as bleaches and depilatories contain unsafe chemicals for you and baby.
With all of the body changes during pregnancy, it’s critical that you keep your provider in the know. While some of the developments are visible during your pre-natal care appointments, your provider needs to stay in touch with how things are developing with the less noticeable parts of your body as they can best determine what is normal and what needs medical attention.
If you’re interested in reading more about what to expect during pregnancy, Dr. Garofalo has written a series of blog articles on prenatal care.