woman showing body changes during pregnancy
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Body changes during pregnancy you may not know about

Photo above by Daniel Reche from Pexels

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So we know that women would experience body changes during pregnancy. One of the few body changes during pregnancy people may not know is varicose veins, Malasma, or heartburn. After giving birth, I have discovered there are 20 body changes during pregnancy. I thought I knew what to expect during my pregnancy, but I was wrong. The level of body change was definitely more than what it meets the eye.

Pregnancy is a very individual experience and not all body changes I mention here are experienced by all women during their pregnancy. I am not a doctor. I am simply recounting the details of what each change was like when it happened to me. If these appear on you, do not worry for I am glad to say that most are temporary. Thank goodness!

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So let’s tackle the obvious body changes during pregnancy:

Physiological body changes during pregnancy:

1. Exhaustion

During your pregnancy, your body will be extremely exhausted in the first trimester. I’ve always been a person who needed naps in the afternoon on a daily basis. So during the first trimester, I would nap for longer. There were times after work, I would feel so sleepy during my drive home. I had no choice but to make a stop or take a cat nap at my office before I start my journey. There was once, I could barely stay awake during a brunch birthday party. I had to sleep while we were out, I couldn’t keep my eyes open even if I wanted to.

Solution: Nap whenever you can, wherever you can.

2. Change in weight

As we all know, when you have a baby, your weight will start to increase, what was interesting during this weight gain experience was that most of the weight is actually not the baby. The baby only takes up around 20-30% of the total weight gain. Most of the weight actually comes from the extra organ you’re growing (the placenta), the amniotic fluid, water retention in your body, etc. You are increasing in weight, but you are not filled with FAT. There’s a difference. So don’t fret.

You may check this link for more info.

3. Breathlessness

I pride myself as a fit person. However, during my pregnancy days I would run out of breath so much quicker than before. I used to be able to climb 2 flights of stairs daily without breaking a sweat. As I got heavier and bigger, it was harder to climb the stairs. Imagine this metaphor. I was used to carting  5 passengers on a bandwagon. However when I was pregnant I was now carting 3 times the weight with that same rickety vehicle. Something is bound to give way.

It came to a point where I had to stop to catch my breath before resuming the climb. I hear some pregnant moms would faint while climbing stairs! So please be careful.

4. Bigger boobs, and areola

This is one of the best body changes I enjoy during the pregnancy! My breast did not immediately jump 1 size bigger if that’s what you’re thinking. I merely have a fuller B cup. But it was enough to make all the difference. This change is best to enjoy before the second trimester begins. This is because you get the advantage of a fuller breast and your belly is not (really) showing yet!

Tip: Remember to take lots of pictures during this time.

5. Skin darkening under my armpits and fold joints, aka Melasma

This was a disconcerting body change during my pregnancy. Different parts of my body started to turn darker. It looked as if I have layers of dead skin and have not been scrubbing myself in years, no kidding. Of course what I did for the next few days was to thoroughly scrub myself down from head to toe. Then I realize it’s not fading and I am not getting any ‘cleaner’. After researching online, it gave me some relief that it’s got nothing to do with my hygiene. It is a natural occurrence in pregnant women. And yes, the coloration also went away after my pregnancy. I didn’t have to go to a beauty salon to remove any ‘dead skin’. Phew!

Click here for more info on Malasma.

6. Body Itching / Stretch marks

I’m not sure if you know this, but when your belly gets bigger, it also tends to itch. This has got to do with stretched skin. The itch is especially obvious when your skin is dry.

I may not have stretch marks on my belly, but one thing surprising is that I have it on my hips. Apparently stretch marks can appear on breasts and thighs too!

Solution: I just remember to always keep my skin moisturized by applying cocoa butter in the affected area right after a shower. It also helps to reduce stretch marks. I apply this thick formula daily in places I am prone to gain weight. Coconut oil is also a good alternative, albeit more greasy than the cocoa butter.

7. Numbing and tingling of hands and legs

When a normal person gets tingling sensations, they either sat in an awkward position for too long or accidentally hit their ‘funny bone’. For a pregnant lady? You will probably get tingling and numbing sensation fairly frequently by merely sitting down for an hour. I got that on my feet, and my most common numbing woes are at night when I sleep. I used to sleep with my hands on my belly, however, I could not do that anymore. If I stay in that position for too long, I could feel the blood not flowing towards my finger, and begin feeling the numbing sensation. So I had to keep my hands on the bed all night, nowhere above the hip level so that I could have a comfortable sleep. 

8. Belly Button

So due to the expansion of our belly, the belly button would be ‘pushed’ out. I had an innie belly button and by the third trimester, My belly button was fully flattened. It was great, it made cleaning so much faster and easier!

9. Varicose Veins

This was one of my concerns when it started appearing behind my knees. I’ve always seen them on middle-aged individuals, hence I thought it was an age thing. Varicose veins are not something easy to reverse once you get it. Hence, when I saw the veins appeared during the third trimester of my pregnancy, I was very concerned. I was so afraid of the irreversible mark on my body. Thankfully after I’ve given birth, the varicose veins are gone as well! It was a temporary body change during my pregnancy. Good news for new moms.

More details on varicose veins and treatment.

10. Leg cramps at night

This hurts a lot! Imagine stretching up your muscles from head to toe like a relaxed cat or an outstretched ballerina. Well that was all it took to trigger the cramps in my legs! The cramps would begin and will continue to ache the more you try to relax! What’s worse was when the cramps would creep-in in the middle of the night. Right in the middle of your sleep! even when you’re not stretching at all.  The pain is so bad I couldn’t help but to groan, whimper and tear up! What’s funny is that the solution to this leg cramp is not to relax your toes.

Solution: Flex your ankle muscles by pointing your toes towards you to relieve the cramp. It will not go away by pointing the toes away from you, it’ll hurt more or longer! 

11. Swollen feet

This was one of the worst body changes during my pregnancy. I noticed my feet were puffy during my first 2 trimesters. At first I thought it was just the result of me gaining weight. But as I progressed to the third trimester, my feet were clearly swollen. So much so that the base, heels, and balls of my feet hurt. It was due to the additional weight I gained and my arch flattening out. The swollen feet also meant that I could no longer fit into my usual flats because they became so tight. The Tightness of my flats also started chafing at the back of my ankle. It came to a point where I’d only walk if I have to. I needed to sit as much as I could. However, alas even sitting was not enough to resolve my swollen feet.

Solution 1: I had to elevate my feet above pelvis height. And it was super effective to elevate overnight whilst I sleep. Looking at the leg elevation pillow below, I wish I had them because the support I used either too big or the pillows were too soft. But I had to make do.

Solution 2: Hence I seek another alternative to relieve my aching feet. I bought a new pair of Sketchers UltraGo and Fitflop to accommodate my swollen feet. I used them both at work and casual outings. On top of that, I made sure I could still wear it after my pregnancy is over. Which I can. Yay! 

Click on the images for more details

Solution 3: I also bought a pair of slippers that have special arch support as an indoor shoe. Wearing it all the time helped reduce the ache on the heels and balls of my feet. 

Below is the closest arch support slipper I could find on Amazon

As you can see, swollen feet were one of the banes of my pregnancy. 

You may read here for more info.

Hormonal body changes during pregnancy:

12. Pregnancy brain

I’m not making this up. This is real! I’ve heard stories of pregnant ladies leaving the house with keys still attached to the house door unattended. Some would leave a coffee cup on the roof of their car while they drive away. I am generally a very forgetful person. So I only had a more frequent bouts of forgetfulness which is not totally out of my character.

13. Body temperature

It was to my surprise that my body temperature increased. I generally can’t handle the cold environment. I would always have a jacket, or a pashmina, to keep myself warm in malls or in the office. During this period I no longer need to bring an extra layer. In fact, I started dressing airy, short-sleeved, clothes and pants like a Malaysian should. It was liberating! Being able to carry 1 item less. Offering my jacket to my husband in the cinema.

I feel like a heat-emitting superhero! Sometimes I’d even sweat in a fully air-conditioned room. This is one of the few that lasted throughout my 39 weeks of pregnancy. I’d like to say I no longer feel cold easily like before post-birth. But I no longer heat up as much as I did when I was pregnant either. Normal now, superpower lost.

You may check this link for more info.

14. Change in taste and or smell

When I read about pregnant women having an acute sense of smell, it was always a curiosity to me. But when it ‘hit’ me, I was surprised it all happened in such a mundane manner. I happened to be hungry and was shopping in 1 Utama. It was as if I had a superpower. I could sniff out which stall the aroma came from within a food court of 30 stalls, 20 meters away! However, it only happened once and I never experience it again.

15. Morning sickness

Morning sickness is feeling sick or nauseous and vomiting. However it does not live up to its name. This phenomenon actually happens at any time of the day, and potentially all day, and or throughout the pregnancy. Some are so bad it results in pregnant moms losing a tremendous amount of weight!

For me, I had a mild morning sickness. I always only feel nauseous, and it always only happens when I’m hungry. It goes away the moment I eat something. Hence I was motivated to eat during my pregnancy and gained a healthy weight.

16. Change in appetite

Food

As you are now growing another human being, your body requires a lot more energy to funnel into the baby. Hence it is no surprise that you’d be eating more than your usual amount. However, quite the opposite for people with morning sickness. They may have less appetite to eat because eating sometimes may be the trigger to them throwing up.  I surveyed some pregnant moms and found that some could not stomach brown or bland colored food for the entirety of their pregnancy. While some moms could only stomach very specific food, like steak. 

Hunger

As for me, I’ve never felt such insatiable hunger in my life! In my first trimester, I had to stock up after every meal. That’s stocking up after breakfast, lunch and dinner because I’d NEED to eat again in a few hours time. In total I’d eat at least 6 times a day! A colleague once saw my bag was brimming with a nasi lemak packet, a Milo box pack, a Tupperware of guava fruit, and 2 packets of peanut-flavored biscuits. I told her I’d finish them all before dinner, and she looked at me in disbelief.

Cravings

Somehow, being pregnant makes you have certain cravings. It is slightly different from the type of food you can stomach while being pregnant. Cravings are about a particular food you actively seek.  As for me I never really liked orange, but orange was the fruit I must eat after every meal for the first 3 months. It was one of the food that would make my nausea feel better.

17. Heartburn / Acid Reflux

This happens especially when you’re later in the third trimesters.  The pressure of the baby pushes down on your stomach makes it worse. So lying down flat on any surface is now a pain in the…throat.

You may check here for more info.

Solution: I made sure not to eat too full so that I will not feel the discomfort. But that also means I get hungry sooner and will need to eat another small portion of food. I also started sleeping with a pillow propped up my back. I just realize there is such thing as a bed wedge! If only I knew sooner I could have better sleep in my last trimester.

18. Change in libido

This is an interesting phenomenon to me. As a person who is on the lower side of libido, the increase in libido was a pleasant surprise.  I heard of women having an increase in sexual appetite and so I waited eagerly. One day I woke up wanting to pounce on my husband, I thought that was very unusual of me. But unfortunately for me, it didn’t last very long.  I wish mine had lasted longer. The desire came, lasted for a few days, and went away in a span of 2 weeks. Sad. 

19. Frequent Urination

Once you’re pregnant, you’d frequent the toilet due to the baby pushing down on your bladder. The space your baby occupies reduces the amount of pee you can carry.  What was new to me was that this phenomenon started as early as my first trimester. Why was I surprised? I was barely showing at that time and the baby was the size of a cherry. What was causing me to pee so frequently at that time eluded me.  

What’s more surprising was every time I visit the toilet, the pee always turns out to be less than 30ml or 1 oz (I’m just estimating the amount here) even though it always feels really urgent. I couldn’t believe the amount!

That’s not all, as the pregnancy progresses, you carry even lesser pee than before! That’s right, as I was in my third trimester, my pee would go as little as a few droplets. I’d be visiting the toilet 10 times or more a day! 

Maybe not all women experience as extreme as I did, but that was what I went through. It came to a point where I thought if something was wrong with me or my bladder. I just couldn’t believe the relationship between my urgent need to pee and the amount I relieved. It does not compute!

I also forgot to mention that the frequent urination does not stop at night. I’d be waking up every 2-3 hours to pee, once again, a few drops. I have to say, these late-night pee could be the creator’s way of training you to do nightly feedings. 

20. No period!

Oh and do not forget, no period! I truly enjoy this period-free duration of pregnancy. Additional good news if you choose to breastfeed your newborn. The period-free duration will last as long as you breastfeed exclusively! So imagine, 9 months pregnancy + X months of breastfeeding = x + 9 months! My baby is slowly weaning off my breast, so I’ve got a good 1 year and 5 months of period-free duration! 

IF YOU’RE A NEW MOM, YOU MIGHT LIKE TO CHECK OUT:

My thought on the experience?

These are all the 20 body changes I personally experienced during my pregnancy. As much as our body goes through a lot of changes, I’d say it was a very interesting experience. For some, I’d like them to stay permanently, and some I’d like to never happen at all. Pregnancy is truly a one of a kind experience.

Different experiences

Every pregnant woman will have different body changes in their pregnancy. I look forward to updating and compiling a list as complete as I could. Do leave a comment below if you have any experience that is not in this list. Leave a comment if you went through a similar experience!

Something Fun

As I was researching on the topic, I stumbled upon this funny yet relatable comic depicting a woman’s journey in pregnancy and its body changes. Pregnancy is a beautiful journey, but let’s also not discount the reality behind this beautiful phenomenon. The comic depicted this very well. Enjoy. 

20 body changes during pregnancy
20 body changes during pregnancy

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