First trimester fatigue, smell aversions, swollen everything—all these pregnancy milestones are pretty much a given. But as any new mom will tell you, there are some particularly wild aspects of the experience that no one ever talks about.
To save you a few freak-outs, I asked top prenatal pros and maternal health specialists to share the most unexpected things that happen during those nine months (and immediately after birth). From the gut to the boobs to the brain, their answers prove no body part is left unaffected by pregnancy.
But rest assured, none of them are anything to worry about—and at least these WTF-worthy happenings make for good stories to swap with your women’s circle, right?
Keep reading for the most unexpected changes a woman’s body experiences during pregnancy, according to the pros.
Slow-moving bowels (AKA constipation)
This can happen during pregnancy because of increased progesterone—the hormone acts as a muscle relaxant and slows down the motility and pace of your digestion and intestinal system. It’s one of the top concerns my clients have in their first trimester.
Sometimes, inorganic iron supplementation can also cause constipation. If you suspect that’s the case, try switching to a food-based iron supplement like Floradix or a prenatal vitamin that has an easily digestible form of iron, like Baby & Me prenatal by MegaFood.
Constipation can improve with increased fluids, fibrous foods, healthy fats, and sometimes supplementing with magnesium. Natural Calm is one of my favorites. —Erica Chidi Cohen, doula, co-founder of Loom, and author of Nurture
Heightened sense of emotions
What surprised me—in the best way possible—was the emotional aspect of being pregnant. Everyone tells you about the physical changes, aches, and pains that are associated with your body. Rarely do you hear about the emotional changes, though.
I found myself becoming much more in tune and sensitive toward everything. I would think about what kind of person I am and what kind of mother I want to be. It was almost as if I got a new sense of myself and my life. —Andrea Speir Kaufman, pre- and postnatal fitness expert and founder of Speir Pilates
Everything from your sex drive to your breast size increases
Pregnant women go through so many changes that we don’t often talk about. Your sex drive might increase, typically during the first or second trimester. Your nipples change—the areolas grow and get darker—you get hairier, and your breasts get huge. Your vaginal discharge increases, especially toward the end of pregnancy, and you’ll sometimes see some bleeding or spotting—talk to your doctor if that’s the case. —Natalia Hailes, doula and co-founder of Our Brilliant Bodies
That line that “appears” on your bump
You know that dark line—linea nigra—that suddenly appears straight down the middle of your stomach during pregnancy? It’s actually always there—the pregnancy hormones just change the pigmentation, making it more noticeable. —Paula Mallis, doula and founder of WMN Space
During pregnancy, your blood vessels expand to allow more blood flow to your baby, which lowers your blood pressure and can sometimes lead to dizziness, especially with quick changes in position. It can be a scary feeling, so learning how to manage those symptoms is important. —Allison Oswald, doctor of physical therapy specializing in women’s health
Major mood swings
I’ve talked to hundreds of moms who are surprised by how severely the change in hormones can affect their mood. No one really talks about it, and it’s surrounded by almost a shame that you aren’t 100 percent happy all the time, especially when dealing with pre- or postpartum depression. This is distinct from the normal “baby blues” that are common after giving birth, when hormones levels drop—including feeling overwhelmed and [anxious] about motherhood and physical changes in your new body.
Mood swings can be lessened by having a full hormone workup by a functional medicine doctor at least six months prior to a planned pregnancy. This gives future mothers the opportunity to address any imbalances to lessen or prevent changes in mood for a smooth pregnancy. —Tiffany Lester, MD, medical director at Parsley Health San Francisco
The most surprising thing that happens to an expectant parent’s body during pregnancy is that breasts might start leaking a thick, yellowish substance called colostrum—even before the baby is born! Its production can begin during pregnancy and will continue through the first few days postpartum. The fluid’s low in fat and high in protein, carbohydrates, and antibodies that coat a baby’s gastrointestinal tract. As long as everyone’s healthy, it’s all a newborn needs those first few days to keep them healthy and nourished. In most cases, your body will gradually begin to produce breast milk, starting between day three and five postpartum. —Morgane Richardson, doula
So many incredible things happen to your body to accommodate new life, but if I had to choose one thing that no one mentions, it’d be the Montgomery glands—little bumps that look like pimples surrounding the areola and nipple. They consist of milk glands and sweat glands, and play an important role in breastfeeding. Because of their antimicrobial properties, these glands help reduce the risk of infection, as well as keep the nipple and areola lubricated and protected. They also help the baby find the breast, as the glands secrete a scent. —Latham Thomas, doula and founder of Mama Glow
Relaxin, a hormone that relaxes the ligaments of the body to assist with delivery of the baby, begins to be released in the first trimester. This increases range of motion and flexibility all over the body, but it’s especially important to assist in making space for the baby during delivery. However, if you’re being active during pregnancy, it can also lead to unhealthy pressure on the joints, overstretched ligaments, and potential injuries.
Your body continues to produce the hormone while breast feeding. This leaves the new mom, who is typically even more active, open to injury. Therefore, avoid plyometrics, where the jumps can lead to injury on unprotected joints, and be aware of over stretching and balancing exercises. —Christine Bullock, pre- and postnatal fitness expert and creator of Body Re-Born
The biggest misconception is that “mama brain” happens after birth. Truthfully, many mamas-to-be experience a bit of brain fog. Simple tasks, birthdays, and even everyday words can simply be forgotten mid-sentence. Take liberty to blame those beautiful pregnancy hormones. Much like the struggle, pregnancy brain is so very real. —Brandi Sellers-Jackson, doula and founder of Not So Private Parts
Welcome to the Well+Good Healthy Pregnancy Guide, a week-long series on how SoulCycle-loving, leggings-wearing, kale salad-obsessed women can bring wellness into the next nine months (and beyond).
If you’re thinking about having a baby, here’s the definitive guide to quitting hormonal birth control. You can also up your chances of getting pregnant by using this on-trend technique.
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