It probably comes as no surprise that some pretty amazing things happen to our bodies when we’re pregnant – after all, starting with a couple of simple cells, we grow an entire human being in a few short months (though it may feel like a whole lot longer when we’re going through it all!)
Hannah Dahlen is a professor at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University, and she explains some of the big and small changes that can occur during pregnancy.
Hannah says that between 50 and 70 percent of women will feel nausea during their first trimester, with some going on to throw up and around one in 100 having hyperemesis gravidarum, the severe vomiting which Duchess Kate, Amy Schumer and Fifi Box had to contend with during their pregnancies.
Nausea is “one of the first signs,” Hannah explains. “The other sign is your breasts suddenly get very, very tender. Another really key sign in the first trimester is feeling very tired … and having experienced it myself it’s hard to describe, but you can be talking away to someone and the next minute you just want to drop to the floor and go to sleep.”
Sound familiar, mums-to-be?!
Hannah notes that food aversions are another really common sign of early pregnancy.
“Nature’s very smart,” Hannah says, noting that these aversions often protect the growing baby.
“You have too much caffeine and miscarriage increases. You may go off alcohol, which is also a really good thing. So nature’s a very clever midwife.”
In the second trimester, that nausea and vomiting may slow down or cease altogether if you have been suffering with it. Other good things start happening too.
“Hair thickens up. It’s the hormones,” Hannah says. “Your skin may change. You may also start to get things like a butterfly effect of freckles or darkening on your skin.”
“The middle trimester is the one where you really start to feel great and you’re starting to sometimes show a little bit,” she continues.
“So it’s feeling more real for you and your partner. Your belly starts to grow and you will be feeling your baby start to move. That’s one of the most delightful things and often begins as just bubbles and then becomes more clear.”
“The last trimester sees the biggest growth,” Hannah says. “At one point you’ll be putting around 100 to 200 grams a week on to your babies. So there is a lot of growth.”
“You will start to have your baby go lower in your pelvis. So the other things that can happen are things like pelvic girdle pain, which is where you can get pain in the lower back.”
“Again, nature’s being really smart, but sometimes we forget it,” Hannah explains. “What’s happening is those hormones are making your pelvis relax. That can happen any time in the first trimester, but it’s more likely to happen as pregnancy progresses, and that can be pretty uncomfortable for women.”
The pregnant vagina
We’d be remiss not to talk about the pregnancy vagina, because there’s a lot going on there too!
“A lot of people don’t realise the vagina is breeding two things. [One is] a cocktail to seed your baby’s microbiome, 200 to 300 bacteria reside in the vagina that are now primed and ready to give your baby his first or her first probiotic dose.
“The second thing is there’s a lot of hormonal activity going on and sealing up of the cervix so infection doesn’t go on there,” Hannah says.
“So the hormones are creating more vaginal discharge as pregnancy advances. It’s often a white discharge. Sometimes clear. It’s all normal unless it smells or it changes colour like deep yellow or a green.
“When your baby comes through the vagina later on, it’s collecting a perfect dose to seed its microbiome to start a healthy life.”