Pregnancy is an amazing process. After all, it’s literally the process of life formation. This article is going to be focusing on some of the changes that a mother’s body goes through during pregnancy. You can keep reading at this link to find out more about what things look like from the fetus’ side.
Most of us are aware that pregnancies are rarely glitzy and glamorous. While many pregnant women are described to ‘glow’, the fact of the matter is that pregnancy can sometimes come with less than comfortable side effects. From morning sickness to swollen feet, the body is put under a lot of stress due to the sudden changes in hormones and the anatomy of the mother. However, while these things are widely accepted, most people probably don’t actually know what causes them. So here’s why some of the common symptoms that pregnant women experience happen:
Morning sickness is probably one of the hallmark traits of pregnancy. Media exploits it all the time as a sign that a character may be expecting and for good reason. Morning sickness is typically characterized by nausea and possibly vomiting, and despite its name does not necessarily have to happen only in the morning or after waking (unfortunately). Although the exact reason isn’t known, a common reason given for morning sickness is the sudden changes in hormone levels during the early stages of pregnancy.
The hormone usually blamed for this phenomenon is human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). It is theorized that when receptors in the brain detect hCG, it triggers the production of prostaglandin E2 (another hormone) from the cells of the placenta that is beginning to form. Prostaglandin E2 is known to be a hormone that can make women feel very sick and when receptors detect it, this is what causes the trademark symptoms of morning sickness.
However, why this symptom is most common only in the first few weeks of pregnancy (thankfully) is, ironically, also because of hormones. As pregnancy progresses, the levels of progesterone in the body also rise. Interestingly enough, progesterone can trigger the production of a handy enzyme, prostaglandin dehydrogenase, which breaks down prostaglandin E2. Therefore, when enough of the enzyme is produced due to the increase in progesterone, this keeps the prostaglandin E2 levels low enough such that it doesn’t trigger nausea.
This is probably one of the most common complaints of many pregnant women which is the painful (and inconvenient) swelling of their extremities. Although feet are the most common site of swelling it is possible to experience it in other parts of the body like the face and the fingers. The medical term for this swelling is ‘edema’ and it is essentially caused by the retention of excess fluids within the body. There are other health conditions that lead to this phenomenon but why it happens during pregnancy is actually very interesting.
During pregnancy, the body actually produces about an extra 50% more blood and body fluids (that’s over half a gallon!) in order to meet the developing needs of the developing baby by softening the body and allowing it to expand to accommodate the growing size of the fetus. Interestingly enough, fetal growth is usually highest towards the 31st week of pregnancy which may be a factor contributing to this swelling since many women usually experience the worst of it during the later stages of pregnancy. As the fetus grows rapidly, the body has to expand at a quicker rate to give it space to do so, which likely leads to extra fluid being produced.
Throughout the day, as gravity acts on the body, the excess fluid is pulled downwards and mostly ends up in….you guessed it: The ankles and feet. While you can’t exactly stop it from happening, there are some things you can do to minimize this uncomfortable side effect. These include things like trying not to stay on your feet too long and reducing your intake of sodium and caffeine.
Although it sounds a little strange, pregnancy really does make expecting mothers a little more forgetful and zoned out. Nicknamed ‘pregnancy brain’ and often a source of much humor, this particular symptom can be linked to a variety of physiological as well as environmental factors. Although we have to confirm a definitive cause for it, some possible theories include changes in hormones, changes in the brain structure, and stress.
One interesting reason was given, however, was the lack of sleep. Pregnancy can sometimes cause some degree of insomnia. In early pregnancy, it’s because of a variety of uncomfortable side effects due to rapid changes in the body like hormone levels such as heartburn, leg cramps, and nausea. In late pregnancy, it’s because it’s difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in and also the many aches and pains that you’ve accumulated throughout the day. Combine that with the stress and anxiety that an expecting mother may be experiencing and you’ve got a recipe made for sleepless nights.
Not getting enough sleep can seriously impair your cognitive capabilities since sleep is when the brain and body recover from the stress it’s built up during the day. Therefore, not getting enough rest can make you feel more than a little out of sorts the next day because you basically haven’t managed to resolve or heal the stress from the previous day and will go on to accumulate more as you go about your life. Many women will feel tired throughout their pregnancy since they aren’t able to get consistently good sleep.
Pregnancy is a beautiful process and a miracle of nature. However, as your body undergoes rapid changes to accommodate the child growing within you, it’s inevitable that you will disrupt the careful equilibrium it usually keeps itself in and thus goes through a multitude of uncomfortable side effects. So remember to be gentle with yourself and your body while you go through this amazing anatomical change.