Body Changes and Weight Gain: What to Expect During Pregnancy
Congratulations, you’re pregnant! While some body changes and weight gain may seem obvious as you move forward over these next nine or so months, there may be some changes that you don’t expect. Or maybe you’re concerned about gaining too much weight and shedding it postpartum. That’s why we spoke with two OB/GYNs and a certified prenatal yoga instructor to shed some light on what to expect.
From stretch marks and dark lines popping up, to extra body hair, swollen feet, and varicose veins, your body undergoes many transformations — some you can see and some you can’t — during pregnancy. But not every woman will experience the same changes or at the same time during their pregnancy. So how can you know what to expect for yourself?
“The better question may be what changes can you NOT expect during pregnancy,” says Heather Bartos, M.D., an OB/GYN and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Frisco and at be. Women’s Health & Wellness just east of Prosper and soon to be in Frisco. “We see everything because each woman is unique. I’m talking rashes, hemorrhoids, weight gain, stretch marks, eyesight changes, varicose veins, inability to tolerate any smells, nausea, and vomiting, diarrhea OR constipation.
“Then there are the emotional changes you’ll experience while pregnant, such as sometimes a loss of ‘filter,’ so you say things you wouldn’t normally say, emotions all over the place, crying at TV commercials or getting angry easy. Those are just a sampling!”
“Pelvic instability causing low back pain is an unexpected issue for a lot of women,” adds Maria, LaNasa D.O., an OB/GYN and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Frisco and at be. Women’s Health & Wellness. “That is why supportive belly bands and stretching is so important! Also, a dark line can appear on your belly right down the center called the Linea Nigra and a lot of women experience thicker, fuller hair and a faster rate of nail growth. The breasts will change and become fuller. A lot of women can also have swollen legs and sometimes even their hands!”
Additional changes you can expect during pregnancy include:
- Bloating and cramping – Yep, those infamous symptoms that you experience during your period can rear their ugly head during pregnancy as well. The most effective way to cope is to cut back on the foods that are frequent culprits: broccoli, cabbage, corn, Brussel sprouts, onions, and carbonated drinks. Keeping a food diary can help you figure out if certain foods are especially problematic for you.
- Increased sweating – Excessive sweating, especially from places you never used to sweat from before, is another common side effect of pregnancy. Even though you’re not “working out” in the usual sense, your body is working 24/7 to make another little human, and that’s tough work! This causes your body temperature to rise slightly. It also means you’ll be perspiring more often than usual, so dress in layers and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
- Skin changes – Everyone talks about the “pregnancy glow,” which is a real thing, but everyone seems to leave out the less-than-glowy changes to your skin, such as stretch marks, varicose veins, dark spots, and skin tags. During pregnancy, your body produces extra melanin. Combine this with an expanding body and hormonal changes, and the result is lots and lots of skin changes.
- A new shoe size – Your feet can grow an entire shoe size during pregnancy, thanks to extra fluid and water retention. There’s a chance the swelling may be temporary, but it may be permanent. Many women report that even after they shed the pregnancy weight, their feet never return to pre-pregnancy size. This is a great time to opt for slip-on shoes to stay comfortable, especially during the hot summer months.
- Vocal changes – If you notice that your voice sounds a bit manly, don’t stress. The estrogen and progesterone shifts can cause your vocal cords to swell, which may make you sound noticeably different when talking or singing. The good news is this typically goes away within a few months after delivery
So what’s not normal? LaNasa adds that pregnant women are more prone to blood clots, so any one-sided calf swelling, tenderness, or redness should be evaluated immediately. Also, call your doctor immediately if you experience bleeding from the vagina, feeling dizzy or faint, shortness of breath, chest pain, severe headache, muscle weakness, regular, painful contractions of the uterus, and/or fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina.
Wait, what’s my weight?!
It can be really easy to focus on your weight, even when you’re having a baby. Pregnancy may be the first time in your life that you are experiencing such a rapid gain in weight, and that can be daunting, especially as you think ahead to the future after the baby comes.
It’s important to remember that weight gain is not the only natural, but it’s beneficial to provide your baby with enough nutrition and support. Each woman and pregnancy is different, but in general, the American College of OB/GYNs recommends that:
- Women who are underweight pre-pregnancy with a BMI less than 18.5, have a recommended range of total weight gain between 28 and 40 lbs.
- Women who are normal weight pre-pregnancy with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9, have a recommended range of total weight gain between 25 and 35 lbs.
- Women who are considered overweight with a BMI between 25 and 29.9, have a recommended range of total weight gain between 15 and 25 lbs.
- Women who are considered obese with a BMI over 30, have a recommended range of total weight gain between 11 and 20 lbs.
“Every pregnant body is beautiful and should never be compared to another,” LaNasa adds. “We are all different and there is no ‘correct size’ for any certain gestational age. What a woman’s body does in pregnancy is truly exceptional and should be celebrated for that fact.”
It’s good to remember that during pregnancy, you are not gaining weight in the traditional sense that you may be used to pre-pregnancy. There are multiple contributing factors to weight gain.
“You have extra blood flow and volume in your body right now, a uterus, placenta and amniotic fluid that weigh about five pounds, and extra breast tissue and fat stored up for breastfeeding once the baby arrives,” says Jessica Ladd Lefterova, a Lamaze certified childbirth educator and certified prenatal yoga instructor on the staff at Texas Health Dallas. “Let’s not forget the baby! The baby weighs a couple of pounds depending on how far along you are, as well. So there are a lot of components that go into the weight gain. It’s important for moms to be aware that it’s not all fat. You’re growing a human being! It’s not just that you’re gaining weight, it’s organs and blood volume and a baby.”
If you’re worried about how you’ll shed the weight after baby comes, you’re not alone. You may be eager to put away your maternity clothes and slip into your old jeans, and maybe feel like your ‘old self’ again. But LaNasa says while it may be hard to shut out what society thinks, going at your own pace and acknowledging what an amazing feat your body has just accomplished can go a long way to help you feel comfortable with your postpartum body.
“I’m very focused on mindful pregnancies and try to make sure my patients feel beautiful throughout their pregnancy regardless of a number. I advise that a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby are the goal,” she explains. “The postpartum period is so stressful yet full of so much joy that I try to not even approach this topic until the post-partum visit. Women can acknowledge, but must ignore, this societal standard of immediately returning to a pre-pregnancy body after delivering their baby. Our lives are forever altered after the birth of a child, so why would we expect our wonderful bodies to be any different?”
Be gentle with yourself as you accept the changes in your body and alert your physician to any changes that may seem out of the norm. Above all, remember that you’re bringing a new life into the world. You may find comfort in connecting with local moms who are experiencing the same things you are, especially during these times where connecting in person can be hard if not impossible. Join the Texas Health Moms Facebook page, a private group where you can network with other moms, swap ideas and share helpful advice.
For more help and guidance about what to expect during your pregnancy, visit Women and Infant Services.