Pregnancy Body Changes That Might Shock You
by Marcia Whyte Smart
Pregnancy hormones trigger intense physical changes you might not have anticipated. Find out what to really expect when you're expecting
Surging hormones and a growing body trigger some intense body changes during pregnancy. While some of these alterations will seem almost alien to you, rest assured that most of them are normal and will go away after you deliver your baby. As noted in the bestselling guide What to Expect When You're Expecting, "If you haven't already noticed, pregnancy impacts just about every inch of your body -- from head (that forgetfulness!) to toes (those expanding feet!) and everything in between (breasts, belly!)."
Common pregnancy body changes you might encounter:
Pregnancy Body Change No. 1: Chloasma
Usually called "the mask of pregnancy," chloasma is the appearance of patchy dark skin on the forehead, nose and cheeks. It coincides with a rise in hormones and melanin during pregnancy. Dark-haired women tend to be more susceptible. The patches will fade a few months after pregnancy. In the meantime, to prevent the area from darkening further, stay out of the direct sun, wear sunscreen, and cover up.
Pregnancy Body Change No. 2: Linea Nigra
Everyone has a faint line that runs from the belly button to the pubic bone, but it can darken substantially when you're expecting. The same culprit that causes chloasma, an increase in melatonin, enhances the color of the linea nigra. The line should fade a few months after pregnancy, when your hormones level out.
Pregnancy Body Change No. 3: Breasts You Don't Recognize
You may not recognize them anymore: bluish veins appear under the skin's surface, the area around the nipple (the areola) darkens and increases in size, nipples protrude more, and the glands on the areola become raised and bumpy in preparation for breastfeeding. And by the end of the first trimester, your breasts might leak a thick, yellow liquid called colostrum. Most of these symptoms will subside after delivery or after you stop nursing.
Pregnancy Body Change No. 4: Bleeding Gums
An increase in your body's blood flow helps move nutrient-rich blood to the uterus, but it can also send extra blood to your teeth and gums. You may notice that your gums bleed more easily when you brush. This symptom will subside after delivery; until then, try using a softer toothbrush, and floss gently.
Pregnancy Body Change No. 5: Hair Growth
Your entire body is growing to accommodate your baby, and your hair is no exception. New hair is growing more rapidly and old hair is shedding more slowly. Your mane may feel thicker, and you may notice hairs sprouting in odd places, like your belly, breasts and nipples.
Pregnancy Body Change No. 6: Skin Tags
Skin is growing and stretching to accommodate baby, and you may notice pieces of "accessory" skin, called skin flaps, on your breasts, armpits and neck. Skin tags are harmless, but they won't diminish after you deliver. You can have them easily removed by a doctor.
While most physical side effects of pregnancy are harmless and will fade soon after delivery, call your doctor if you can't keep liquids down, or if you have a fever or sudden swelling in your face or hands.
Marcia Whyte Smart is a freelance writer based in San Francisco and writes frequently about women's and children's health.
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Women's Health: Pregnancy Body Changes That Might Shock You