An expanding belly, a sudden craving for ice cream, a bit of nausea, the feeling of your baby kicking for the first time. There are plenty of changes you might expect to experience during pregnancy - some to look forward to, others not as much.
Either way, as you undergo the impressive task of growing a human life, your body works hard to support you and your baby. Inevitably, this will require some temporary adjustments.
Though every pregnancy comes with changes, each pregnancy is unique. During this special time in both you and your baby's life, there are some things you might have never known to expect while expecting.
Here are 7 completely normal changes you might experience during pregnancy that may come as a surprise.
1. Instead of - or in addition to - pregnancy cravings, you might have food aversions.
If you've made a late-night run to the grocery store (or made someone else do it for you) for ice cream or your favorite candy, you're not alone. Cravings are a common and well-known side effect of pregnancy. But you may also experience the opposite and become completely repulsed by the mere mention of a food you once loved.
Likely in response to nausea and vomiting, you may begin to loathe certain foods during pregnancy. Some women may turn up their nose at unhealthy foods like french fries, while others may begin to avoid healthier ones, like broccoli. Dislikes may also extend into drinks, such as coffee and tea.
For better or worse, you may need to avoid certain foods or drinks for the time being. Don't worry - you'll be able to enjoy your morning cup of coffee eventually.
"Although eating a well-balanced diet is the plan, it is not always possible. Try and remember to eat based on your pregnancy symptoms. A Registered Dietitian can help you develop an eating plan based on your preferences," explained Maureen Bocella, MS, RD, CDCES, LDN, Manager of Nutrition and Diabetes Services at Chester County Hospital.
2. Your gums may bleed.
You probably already know you'll experience a variety of hormonal changes during pregnancy (hello, mood swings), but what you may not realize is how they can impact your oral health. Thanks to hormones along with increased blood flow, you may experience some bleeding in your gums.
Normally, a little blood from your gums isn't any reason to be concerned. But if left untreated, it can lead to problems down the road, such as gum disease. The good news is that proper brushing and flossing habits can help keep bacteria at bay - and keep your mouth healthy during pregnancy and beyond.
3. You might feel a little spacey.
From forgetting where you put your keys to calling your partner by the name of your dog, pregnancy may make your brain feel a little foggy. Often referred to as "baby brain" or "pregnancy brain" as many as four out of five women say they become more forgetful or spacey throughout their pregnancy.
While this might seem annoying or frustrating, this change may actually be an impressive adaptation to motherhood. One study found that the temporary decrease in functioning in some areas of the brain may improve efficiency in other areas, such as decision-making and caring for your baby.
Eventually, the fogginess will fade. For now, try putting your keys in the same place each day.
4. Your skin may change.
If you still have flashbacks of that first pimple of your teenage years, you'll be able to relate to this next change of pregnancy. Just like hormonal changes during puberty can cause acne, the same can happen when you're pregnant - even if you've never struggled with acne in the past.
Fortunately, acne is common -; whether you're pregnant or not. And there are easy ways to treat and prevent it from getting worse, including:
- Cleansing your face each morning and night with a mild cleanser
- Using a non-medicated astringent to remove excess oil
- Applying an oil-free moisturizer
- Avoiding touching your face
5. And your hair, too.
If you've always wanted thicker hair, now is your time to shine. During pregnancy, hormones may cause the hair on your head to grow faster or become thicker. But this comes at a price - you may experience hair growth in areas where you don't normally have hair, such as your face, chest, abdomen, or arms
Then, a few months after you give birth, you may notice some hair loss. Don't worry - this is simply your hormone levels returning to normal, allowing your hair growth cycle to return to normal as well. Give it about six months, and your hair (both on your head and your body) should return to a pre-pregnancy state
6. You might suddenly be really flexible.
Whether you pride yourself on flexibility or that's never really been your thing, pregnancy may make you a little more flexible than you're used to. As your body prepares for childbirth, ligaments that support your joints - like your hip bones - become relaxed. This allows you to safely welcome your baby into the world.
"While this may seem like a great time to push your body to the limit, it's important to be careful with this newfound flexibility. When your joints are more mobile, they're also more at risk of injury," Brendan Sullivan, PT, MSPT, Director of Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at Chester County Hospital, shared. As a result, you'll need to avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions for the time being.
7. Finally, you might need some bigger shoes.
Swollen feet are a well-known side effect of pregnancy, mostly caused by your body producing extra fluids that are needed to care for your growing baby. Other parts of your body that might swell include your hands, face, legs, and ankles.
A lesser known foot-related effect of pregnancy is fallen arches. A combination of hormones that soften your ligaments (in preparation for birth) and added weight can make the ligaments in your arches soften, and eventually, your feet might flatten
As a result, your feet could lengthen between 2 and 10 millimeters, which may equate to a full shoe size and mean you need to invest in some bigger shoes. Unfortunately, your arches may not come back after pregnancy, so opt for a pair you actually like.
Good, Bad, or Strange - Pregnancy Changes Are Worth It
Whether you're dealing with stretch marks, feeling extra tired, or constantly running to the bathroom, don't forget what all these changes are for. Your body is working incredibly hard to develop and support a human life, which is no small task.
While pregnancy-related changes are inevitable, talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any that concern you. They're there to support you through this new stage in your life.
As you go through the ups and downs of pregnancy, cherish this time as much as you can. And allow yourself to rest every once in a while - you deserve it.
Do you have questions about how we can support you throughout your pregnancy? Call 610-738-2300 (CCH) or 610-4310-5131 (Fern Hill Medical Campus) to make an appointment in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Chester County Hospital.
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