During pregnancy, your body will undergo some amazing changes. Increased hormones will cause your breasts to swell, your uterus to expand even your skin to break out. You’ll deal with crazy cravings at 5am (think ice cream and pickles) and feel “too big” even though it’s just your body’s way of adapting.
Spoiler alert: It will all be worth it. In the meantime, we want to help you prepare by outlining changes to expect during each trimester of your pregnancy.
Changes in your body during pregnancy: An overview
Pregnancy is a moment of enormous change for women. Most of it is brought about by the rise in hormone levels, and also the “weight”, physical and mental, of carrying another life in your body.
According to Healthline, a pregnant woman’s body undergoes normal physical changes. They can be obvious (like a bigger belly, or dark skin) or subtle (frequent urination, fatigue). Below is a list of the changes mums-to-be can anticipate for the next nine months:
- Increased respiratory rate
- Increase minute ventilation
- Respiratory alkalosis
- Decreased functional capacity
- Increased tidal volume
- Feeling out of breath
- Increased cardiac output
- Increased blood volume
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Decreased peripheral resistance
- Decreased blood pressure (in the second trimester)
- Decreased gastric motility (constipation)
- Increased reflux
- Hot flashes due to increased hormonal levels and basal metabolic rate
- Slight increase in the size of the parathyroid gland
- Posterior pituitary secreting oxytocin (near the end of term)
- The anterior pituitary will secrete prolactin (at birth)
- The expanding uterus will put pressure on the organs leading to bladder control problems such as frequent urination and incontinence.
- Kidney working extra hard
- Realignment of the spinal curvature to maintain balance
- Shift in the posture with exaggerated lumbar lordosis, leading to the typical gait of late pregnancy
- Increased ligamental laxity
- Loosening of pelvic bone ligaments (to prepare for labour and birth)
Breasts and abdomen
- Breasts become larger and more tender
- Nipples may stick out
- Leaking of colostrum, a yellow watery pre-milk, from the nipples (during the third trimester)
- Abdomen begins to expand (during the second trimester)
- Stretching of the abdominal wall and ligaments that support the uterus (leading to the aching of the abdomen)
Skin, hair and nails
- Appearance of stretch marks
- Hyperpigmentation of the umbilicus, nipples, and face
- Darkening of the abdominal midline (linea nigra)
- Appearance of spider veins near breasts and reddening of the palms
- Changes in hair and nail texture and growth
The average pregnancy lasts for 283 days. That time is divided into three periods called trimesters during which different things happen to your body.
Below is a list of some of the normal things you may experience during each trimester. The changes described here may happen earlier or later than they appear on this list, and some may continue throughout your pregnancy journey.
First trimester (Week 0 to 12)
The first trimester is very important for both you and the baby growing inside you. It will require many adjustments to your lifestyle. During this phase, your body is preparing itself for the next nine months, and you can expect a wide variety of symptoms and emotions due to the hormonal changes in your body.
You may feel extremely tired during the first two months of pregnancy because your body is working extremely hard trying to create an environment for your new baby, and your hormones will be raging. Feeling fatigued is perfectly the norm, and you should take every opportunity to rest up.
You may also suffer from morning sickness (the worst period is usually between eight to 12 weeks), excessive saliva production, frequent urination, mood swings, irritability, acne, bloating and food cravings. Your breasts may be more sensitive and tender or they might feel fuller and heavier. Your nipples start to enlarge and your areolas become larger and darker.
Many women also experience headaches in the first trimester, which can be blamed on low blood sugar or reduced blood flow to the brain when you stand or sit up quickly. You can also expect to put on a little weight. During the first trimester, a total gain of 1 to 3 kg is expected. If you have not been putting on weight, that’s normal too — due to the morning sickness.
If you are an older mum (35 years or older), your risk of a miscarriage is higher due to the higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities. You may want to consider having a nuchal translucency ultrasound. This looks at the back of the baby’s neck and determines the chance of Down Syndrome.
Here are 10 things you will need to do in your first trimester:
1. Improve your nutrition
Eat more vegetables, drink more milk and increase your intake of vitamins and folic acid. Folic acid greatly reduces your baby’s risk of developing neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
2. Stop the vices
Quit smoking. Cut off alcohol and reduce caffeine. Studies have linked consumption of these three to miscarriage and other pregnancy problems.
3. Find an OB-GYN
Ask family, friends, and co-workers to recommend a favourite gynaecologist if you don’t yet have one.
4. Prenatal check-up
Book an appointment for your first prenatal check-up.
5. Get in the know
Familiarise yourself with all the dos and don’ts of pregnancy.
6. Call up your health insurance provider
Make sure you know what your health insurance plan covers as far as your prenatal care and delivery costs, as well as care for your new baby.
7. Sort out your confinement nanny
Confinement nannies get snapped up seven to eight months in advance. You will want to find your confinement nanny or arrange for someone to help out after the delivery.
8. Go to bed early
You might feel like a grandma by clocking in at 9pm, but your body needs all the rest it can get to have enough energy to create the new life you are forming.
9. Discuss when to announce the pregnancy
Some parents-to-be spill the beans right away. Others wait until they have passed the first trimester and the risk of miscarriage has declined significantly before they send the pregnancy announcement. It’s definitely your call when you want to share the news with others.
10. Buy some new bras
Your breasts might go up one or two more sizes, so it’’s a good idea for you to stock up on some new cotton bras.
Second trimester (Week 13 to 25)
This is usually the best stage during which you feel overall healthier, experience a heightened sex drive and look good, with a definite change in body shape — which is why it is referred to as the honeymoon period.
By this time, you should no longer suffer from morning sickness and overwhelming fatigue brought on by hormonal changes. If you are still feeling queasy, talk to your doctor about increasing your intake of vitamin B6.
Around this time you will start to experience other discomforts, namely dry skin around your stomach, abdominal aches, an increase in gas, shortness of breath, heartburn, stretch marks and swelling of the hands, feet, ankles and face.
Cramps in your feet and calves are also normal in the second trimester and may be caused by either fatigue or the uterus exerting pressure on the nerves in your legs. Your palms and the soles of your feet are also likely to become red and itchy because of an increase in estrogen.
And while your hormones are still in overdrive, your body has had three months to adjust to them, so you might actually make it through one of those tear-jerker movies without bawling.
Here are 10 things you will need to do in your second trimester:
1. Find a prenatal exercise class
Not only does exercise make you feel better by releasing endorphins, but it can also relieve backaches and improve your posture by strengthening and toning muscles in your back, butt, and even thighs.
2. Start your second-trimester prenatal visits and tests
Regular checkups can help you track your baby’s growth and assess the foetal position. Also, it’s the time you’ll most likely get to see your baby in an ultrasound.
3. Keep your belly moisturised
Your growing baby will cause your body to lose much of its natural moisture. You can use some skin moisturisers to help relieve this problem.
4. Choose a prenatal class
It’ll be very helpful for you and your partner to participate in a prenatal class as these classes teach you about the process of labour, inform you about your options during the labour process and can also provide many helpful tips about labour techniques and caring for your infant.
5. Do some financial planning
It is never too early to start planning financially for your baby’s future — even as early as when they are in the womb. After all, welcoming a new member to your family is a milestone, and you want to ensure both you and your baby are well-protected.
6. Start sleeping on your side
It turns out that it’s not just about comfort though — new studies have found that a pregnant woman’s sleeping position can have a real effect on the health of the baby.
7. Think about your maternity leave
Like any new mum, you want to spend as much time as possible bonding with your newborn. Fortunately, Singapore provides mums with the legal right to take maternity leave.
8. Avoid unsafe activities
Some women push their limits even during pregnancy, you’ll need to avoid sports or activities that carry a high risk of falling or that may cause trauma to your abdomen.
9. Take all the necessary supplements
Pregnancy supplements are intended to provide the body with nutrients that may be lacking when you are carrying another life inside you.
10. Eat healthily
Well, simply put, yes. Eating right during pregnancy is very important as your immune system is suppressed and your body is more susceptible to parasites and other food-borne bacteria.
Third trimester (Week 26 to 40)
During this period, you will continue to put on half to 1kg per week until the 37th week. Your baby will put on three-quarters of its weight during this period. Your overall weight gain should be between 10 to 12kg.
Your belly may affect your balance and cause backaches. Swelling, varicose veins, groin pains, shortness of breath and fatigue are the common complaints as the pregnancy progresses full-term. Adequate rest, comfortable clothes and shoes and simple exercises should be an important part of your pregnancy.
As your overall level of discomfort peaks, you may not have the good night’s sleep that you so deserve. Try to make up for it by squeezing in some catnaps during the day. Try to also avoid drinking water at night, so as to minimise getting out of bed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
By week 36, start getting organised and prepared for labour. You will being to notice an increase in the number of contractions, and your breasts will also make their final preparations for breastfeeding and may start to leak.
Be sure to have all your essential items for your baby’s needs ready as well as your birth plan. Also, clean all bottles and sterilise them during this final stretch, and get ready to bring your new bundle of joy home at last!
Here are 10 things you will need to do in your third trimester:
1. Learn how to cope with labour pain
When the time comes to give birth to your baby, you know that it will be hard but oh so worth it in the end. Source out the best options for dealing with labour pains that suit you.
2. Know the stages of labour
While some women may have had a traumatic delivery, there are many others who have had wonderful, holistic births. With a little help and preparation about what stage of labour you’re at, you’re more likely to feel confident about giving birth to your baby.
3. Make a plan for when labour starts
When a woman becomes pregnant, she will often find herself planning everything for the arrival of her new baby: the nursery, a car seat and stroller, toys and so much more. While all of this is fun and necessary for the most part, there are other things that should be just as thoroughly planned — like the birth plan.
4. Do a soothing late-pregnancy stretch
Lying around too much can make you stiff but strenuous activities are definitely out of the question. Try prenatal yoga or some stretches to help you get through the daily pains in your third trimester.
- Lie on your side with your back straight and support your head and neck with a pillow.
- Bend your legs slightly and keep your hips stacked one above the other. Place your top arm on the floor in front of you to avoid rolling over.
- Close your eyes and breathe in and out slowly and naturally. With every exhale, relax one body part at a time – face, shoulders, ribs, belly, legs, fingers.
5. Look out for late-pregnancy complications
Make sure you keep up with your regular doctors or midwife appointments as complications tend to pop up during the third trimester. Keep track of your blood pressure and any pain or discomfort that might occur.
6. Stock up on what the baby will need
Shopping for your new arrival can be an exciting time, but it can be all too easy to get carried away. While there are some things that are a great idea to buy before your baby is born, there are other items that you may want to hold off on getting until after the birth — like a crib or all those adorable onesies you’e been eyeing.
Before you start racking up the bills, consider some important factors that will help you decide what to buy before your baby is born.
7. Make sure you have everything you need before you go to the hospital
Your bag should contain the necessities you’ll need before and after birth, as well as any items that will make your stay more comfortable.
8. Make you sure have everything to bring the baby home
You’ve got your hospital bag essentials sorted but there’s one more person you’ll need to pack for when heading off to the hospital. Your newborn baby, of course! You’ll go to the hospital just two and come back three, so don’t forget to pack for your newborn.
9. Slow down
Take each day on slowly, and save up your energy for the big day (and beyond). You’ll be more susceptible to dizzy spells as blood can pool in your feet and legs, causing a temporary drop in your blood pressure.
10. Don’t panic if you go past your due date
Don’t worry when your due date rolls around and you’re still pregnant. You can try inducing labour and make sure to check in with your doctor or midwife.
It can be overwhelming to deal with these body changes during pregnancy, so take everything in stride. All these changes happen to prepare you for the next chapter in your life – motherhood. Do not hesitate to check in with your doctor if any symptoms get too severe.