There are some very obvious changes women undergo when they’re expecting. baby, but how much do you really know about what’s going on in your pregnant body?
Sneha Washwani is a GP and a mum of two girls aged five and seven. She chatted to Shevonne Hunt for Kinderling Conversation about the way pregnancy shakes a woman’s system up.
“Besides changes in the outward appearance of the body like the big boobs and the big bump there are also basic physiological processes that affect all aspects of life in pregnancy,” Sneha says. “Even your breathing your sleep your appetite and your digestion and so the changes are really far-reaching, to be honest. They fall into largely two categories …”
Listen to Sneha Washwani on Kinderling Conversation:
“You’ve got the mechanical changes, so the physical changes that happen in your organs and to your body and then you’ve got the endocrine changes, so these are the hormonal changes”, Sneha told Kinderling.
Chances are you already know that the placenta is the organ that nourishes your baby during pregnancy, but it’s also doing other important work.
“It doesn’t it doesn’t just feed the baby,” Sneha explains, “it produces a hormone that’s really important for supporting the pregnancy and that hormone is progesterone … but the progesterone also causes other issues.”
“It increases the sensitivity in our lungs. It can cause other effects in the body as well. The placenta also releases a hormone that makes us more insulin resistant. That means that it frees up more sugar in our body so that we can feed our babies. And this is why often, perhaps you might have noticed or may not have been told but when you do your urine sample for your midwife, there is always a little bit of sugar in your urine. You’re producing a little bit more sugar and not metabolizing it in the way you would have.”
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There are other shifts too, Sneha tells us.
“The physical changes are really far reaching. They extend to almost all of our organs. So with the respiratory system, our lung volume increases, we breathe more rapidly, the diaphragm gets pushed up and our breasts obviously increase in size and get heavier.”
“The heart is really interesting, and the circulatory system in the first trimester of pregnancy, 10 percent of your whole circulation goes just to the baby,” Sneha explains. “So we often wonder why we get light headed and feel a bit faint and our blood pressure drops. Well, that’s a pretty good reason why. On top of that, our cardiac output increases so our heart is pumping harder. Some women actually get murmurs during pregnancy, so noises in the heart just because of this.”
Moving on down, there are changes in the gut, thyroid, skeletal system and appendix too. Phew!
“In our gut, the gut becomes a little bit more leaky. So we might have more trips to the toilet and our gastric acidity is the acid in our stomach also increases. That’s why some women get reflux and that coupled with the pressure of the uterus pushing the stomach and the bowel right up also give us those symptoms.”
“There’s an interesting fact I like to tell ladies. Your appendix usually sits in the lower right corner of your tummy. But when you’re fully pregnant it actually sits in the right-upper quadrant under your ribs so that just shows how far your organs are pushed and squashed around in there when the uterus is growing,” Sneha says.
“Our thyroid also enlarges and increases in activity, so our metabolism fundamentally changes as well. Our skeletal structure can be affected too. Relaxin is a hormone that’s produced during pregnancy and that makes all our ligaments super, super stretchy and whilst that might sound quite useful actually isn’t because it makes the pelvis really mobile and the back really mobilising causes a lot of pain.”
Even women’s’ gums and teeth undergo pregnancy transformations, which can potentially affect other parts of the body.
“The gums get bigger and fleshier like a lot of other fleshy bits of tissue in the body during pregnancy. So if the teeth aren’t kept clean and free of decay then actually you can get gum infections, and gum infections can cause teeth infections and when that happens, there’s a risk of it going to the heart as well as – and into to the circulatory systems. That’s why I so strict about good dental hygiene when we’re pregnant.”
Phew. Who even knew?! So if you already thought pregnancy was giving you a bracing shake-up from the inside out, you were spot on.
Now forward this to your nearest and dearest and request a massage, stat!