Physical Changes In Pregnancy

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Physical Changes In Pregnancy
Physical Changes In Pregnancy

Video: Physical Changes In Pregnancy

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Video: Physiological Changes During Pregnancy 2023, January

Physical changes in pregnancy

During pregnancy, the maternal organism undergoes major changes. The hormonal balance, metabolism, immune system and other organ systems adapt to the requirements of pregnancy. Only then will the embryo grow. The changes are controlled by the hormonal system through which the unborn child and the mother communicate with each other. After pregnancy, the maternal organism changes again.

Every woman reacts differently to the adaptations of the organism. Some women experience symptoms during pregnancy that go away after a short time or can last until the end of pregnancy. The psyche is also affected by the changes. Because of the physical changes, diseases rarely develop that require medical attention.


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  • How is the hormonal system changing?
  • How is the cardiovascular system changing?
  • How do the lungs, mouth, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys change?
  • How do metabolism and body weight change?
  • How does the breast change?
  • How does the uterus change?
  • How do skin, hair and nails change?
  • How does the psyche change?

How is the hormonal system changing?

During fertilization, complex hormonal processes are set in motion that adapt the woman's organism to the requirements of pregnancy. Among other things, hormones ensure that the egg cells implant in the uterus. They influence the immune system so that the embryo is not viewed as foreign and rejected, and they control the further growth processes in pregnancy. More on the topic: A pregnancy begins

Just a few days after fertilization, the blastocyst begins to produce the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Its concentration increases continuously until the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. Once it is high enough, pregnancy tests can show the hormone in the blood or urine. The main effect of hCG is to increase the production of estrogen and progesterone, thus helping to maintain pregnancy. It is also involved in the development and growth of the child's organs and the placenta.

In the further course of pregnancy, more progesterone is formed, and there is an increased production of the female sex hormone estrogen.

  • Progesterone is essential in maintaining pregnancy in the early stages. It prepares the lining of the uterus for the fertilized egg cell to implant and ensures, among other things, improved blood flow and relaxation of the uterus. The progesterone level in the blood rises sharply in the first weeks of pregnancy and increases continuously until the end of pregnancy.
  • The concentration of estrogen also increases continuously. In the woman's body, estrogens ensure, among other things, increasing elasticity of the connective tissue and blood vessels as well as increased blood flow to the tissues. They control the growth of the uterus and the mammary glands and have important functions in the course of labor.
  • Furthermore, the concentration of adrenal hormones (glucocorticoids, aldosterone) increases during pregnancy in order to adapt the electrolyte and water excretion to the changed circulatory conditions.
  • The thyroid hormones are also produced to an increased extent and have an important influence on the development of the child's nervous system.
  • Towards the end of pregnancy there is an increase in the hormone prolactin, which stimulates the differentiation of the mammary glands and milk production.
  • The hormone oxytocin causes the uterine muscles to contract (labor) during childbirth and influences the development of a relationship between mother and child.

How is the cardiovascular system changing?

The cardiovascular system of the pregnant woman reacts to the growth of the embryo by improving the blood supply, especially in the area of ​​the uterus, in order to ensure that the embryo is adequately supplied with oxygen and energy. The volume, composition and blood flow of the maternal blood change.

The resistance in the blood vessels decreases, so that the blood pressure drops slightly in the first trimester of pregnancy. Normal values ​​are reached again towards the end of pregnancy. The pulse increases by about ten beats per minute. The blood volume increases by about 40 percent by the end of pregnancy, and the capacity of the vascular system increases. Overall, this leads to an improved blood flow to the tissues. The mother's heart has to pump more blood through the vasculature, which makes it a little bigger.

In order to meet the increased need for oxygen, the formation of red blood cells also increases. This leads to an increased need for iron. If this is not balanced out with food, the iron deposits can become depleted and lead to anemia. White blood cells are also increased during pregnancy.

The total fluid in a pregnant woman's body increases by around eight liters during pregnancy. This contains around one to one and a half liters of additional blood that circulates in the body and also supplies the growing embryo. At a late stage of pregnancy, especially in the lower half of the body, there may be increased accumulation of fluid in the tissue. This can lead to edema, for example ankle edema is common. With the appropriate predisposition, the changes in the pregnant woman's circulation can also cause venous diseases. These include varicose veins, hemorrhoids or, in rare cases, thrombosis.

How do the lungs, mouth, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys change?

Lungs: The blood flow to the lungs increases during pregnancy, as does the depth of breath (tidal volume). More than half of women experience mild respiratory distress during pregnancy, especially in late pregnancy. As the uterus grows, the diaphragm is pushed upwards, compressing the lungs. In addition, the increased stress on the heart can lead to shortness of breath.

Mouth: The increased blood flow can lead to increased bleeding of the gums or inflammation of the gums; changes in saliva formation with a lower pH value can lead to more easily caries. Thorough oral and dental hygiene is important during pregnancy to prevent tooth damage.

Gastrointestinal tract: As a result of the hormonal changes, the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract lose mobility and gastric emptying is slowed down. In addition, the stomach is displaced and displaced by the growing uterus. This promotes heartburn and indolence.

Kidneys: The kidneys are also supplied with more blood during pregnancy, which then leads to increased urine production. The pregnant woman notices this in the form of more frequent urination; when the uterus presses on the bladder, it is reinforced. The kidney pelvis and ureter are physiologically enlarged during pregnancy, which increases the risk of infections (e.g. urinary tract infections, cystitis).

How do metabolism and body weight change?

The pregnant woman's body requires more energy and other metabolic products for the embryo to grow and for new tissue to be formed. To this end, the metabolism changes. In the first half of pregnancy, the metabolic processes are mainly responsible for the formation of new fat tissue, in the second half of pregnancy they are mainly responsible for the growth of the embryo and placenta.

Glucose from the carbohydrate metabolism is an important supplier of energy and is particularly important for the growth of the embryo and for the supply of the placenta. As a result, insulin sensitivity decreases in the second half of pregnancy, ie the body's cells respond less well to insulin. This is to ensure that less glucose is absorbed into the cells and more is available for the embryo. As a result, the woman's pancreas has to produce more insulin. If this increased need cannot be met, the blood sugar level rises continuously and gestational diabetes develops. More on the topic: Gestational diabetes

During pregnancy, the body produces around 1,000 grams of additional protein. This protein is required as a building block by the embryo, the placenta, the uterus and the mammary gland tissue. The proportion of free fatty acids in the blood also increases.

Various electrolytes and minerals, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc, are also required for the development of the child's skeleton and the formation of new tissue. A balanced diet, which is particularly important during pregnancy, is a prerequisite. More on the subject of nutrition during pregnancy

On average, a woman's total weight gain during pregnancy up to birth is around 12.5 kg. This already includes the weight of the fetus. The fat deposits formed during pregnancy are increasingly used as energy suppliers. This means that more glucose is available for the embryo to grow.

How does the breast change?

In the first trimester of pregnancy, the glandular tissue begins to grow and the breast increases in volume. This causes a feeling of tension in the chest. In the second third, the gland cells begin to switch to milk production. However, an interplay of hormones prevents milk from leaking prematurely.

How does the uterus change?

Hardly any other organ undergoes such major changes during pregnancy as the uterus. In order to provide space for the unborn child and to be able to care for it, the size of the uterus must constantly adapt. The muscle layer of the uterus grows about twenty times during pregnancy. The blood flow also increases, increasing from 50 ml / min outside of pregnancy to around 800 ml / min at the due date. The muscle cells of the uterus prepare for the work of contraction they have to do during labor.

Without pregnancy, the uterus weighs around 50 grams and is around five to ten centimeters tall. At the end of the pregnancy it reaches to the costal arch and has reached a weight of around 1,500 grams.

How do skin, hair and nails change?

During pregnancy, the skin can show increased pigmentation and become darker as a result. Body parts rich in pigment such as nipples, the external genitalia or scars are particularly affected. There may be a dark line on the stomach between the sternum and the pubic symphysis called the linea fusca. After the birth, the pigment changes recede after several weeks.

Due to the increased blood flow, so-called spider naevi (small new vascular formations visible on the skin) and extensive reddening (erythema) on the palms of the hands can develop during pregnancy. Itching is also common during pregnancy, the cause is usually dry skin or hormonal changes. Severe, generalized itching should be clarified by a doctor, as certain illnesses may be responsible (e.g. liver or biliary disorders).

In the last weeks of pregnancy, reddish stretch marks (striae distensae) can appear on the abdomen, hips or breasts as a result of the skin stretching. After the puerperium, they recede significantly and become pale in color.

Hair and nails grow faster than usual during pregnancy. Many women notice increased hair growth on, for example, arms, legs or in the pubic area. The hair on the head appears fuller and stronger.

How does the psyche change?

Pregnancy confronts women, their partners and their social environment with a new life situation; it is a time of intense feelings. Women often experience a rollercoaster of positive or negative feelings such as joy, confidence, trust or fear, worry, insecurity and doubt. In the first trimester of pregnancy, awareness of pregnancy develops along with physical changes. In the second half, the growing fetus is more consciously perceived. The woman feels the child's movements, and ultrasound examinations provide an initial picture.

Many pregnant women develop well-being in the middle of pregnancy. In the last few weeks before the birth, new insecurities and fears about your own health can arise and mix with the anticipation of the newborn. In pregnancy, personal relationships that are based on affection, understanding and trust are particularly important. They help the pregnant woman to process the psychological changes better.

In addition to the support and accompaniment of the woman through the personal environment, a trusting relationship with the attending doctor and the midwife is also important for a good pregnancy.

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