Your Changing Body
Pregnancy brings with it many changes. Perhaps the greatest and most immediate change being what happens to your body. Taking extra care of your changing body is important for both you and your baby.
As your pregnancy progresses you will experience physical changes, including backaches, weight gain and fluid retention. However, with proper care and attention to your body you can help manage these changes, which will make getting back in shape more manageable after your pregnancy.
Try to keep in mind that the extra weight is important for a healthy pregnancy and will eventually come off after you've had the baby. Concentrate on:
- Eating nutritious meals
- Cutting out junk food
- Exercising regularly (after first checking with your healthcare provider)
If you experience backache brought on by pregnancy, try these methods for reducing discomfort and getting a good night's sleep (under your healthcare provider's supervision):
- Simple stretching or yoga to strengthen and stretch back and leg muscles
- Treat yourself to a massage to relax and loosen tight back muscles
- Try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your bent knees to support your lower back
Swollen Ankles and Feet
Because your body retains more fluid during pregnancy, you may experience swollen legs, ankles and/or feet (edema), particularly during your third trimester. To relieve this condition:
- Stay off your feet as much as possible
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods
Note: Call your healthcare provider if you notice sudden swelling in your hands and face. It could signal a dangerous pregnancy condition called preeclampsia.
It is not uncommon to feel itchy as the skin on your belly and breasts expands. Some women also find that their palms and the soles of their feet get red and you may also find that certain conditions that normally make you itchy (such as dry skin, eczema or food allergies) make you even itchier when you're pregnant.
To reduce discomfort, avoid taking hot showers or baths, use mild soap and moisturize liberally with an unscented lotion.
Severe itchiness in the second or, more commonly, third trimester can be a sign of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, a liver problem that affects up to 2 percent of pregnant women and may spell trouble for your baby. Call your doctor or midwife immediately if you think you have cholestasis. If you do, you'll need to have blood tests to check your liver and ultrasounds to check on your baby.
When to See a Doctor: Contact your pregnancy care provider promptly if you begin to feel persistent of extreme itchiness.
Not all women get stretch marks. Because they appear in areas where the skin has stretched rapidly due to weight gain, you may reduce your chances by gradually adding pounds, and not exceeding the recommended weight for your body type.
If you do get stretch marks, there are several options for minimizing their appearance. Some studies have shown that topical ointments such as tretinoin cream may help; however, they must be applied soon after you give birth (note: Some topical treatments are not safe to use while you are pregnant and/or nursing, so consult with your healthcare provider).
- Some studies have shown that topical ointments such as tretinoin cream may help; however, they must be applied soon after you give birth (note: Some topical treatments are not safe to use while you are pregnant and/or nursing, so consult with your healthcare provider).
- There's some evidence that laser treatments can help restore the skin's elasticity and pigmentation; if you're interested, talk to a dermatologist. Unfortunately, this type of cosmetic procedure isn't covered by insurance.
Sometime around the fourth month, your nails may start to grow faster than usual. They may also become softer or more brittle and develop tiny grooves. They should return to normal within a few months postpartum.
Pleasant Body Changes
While pregnancy brings about many challenges physically, there are a few physical changes you will wish lasted, such as:
- A luxuriant head of hair
- The proverbial "glow"
- A newly ample bosom