Body Changes Before & After Birth

The Effects of Pregnancy: What impact your baby could have on your body

By T. S. Mills-Faraudo

Your Body During PregnancyJenni Sherri! Said her body will never be the same afterer giving birth to her two children.

The 34-year-old San Lorenzo mom was plagued with one problem a" er another during both of her pregnancies, and she doesn’t believe her body could handle having more children.

She developed preeclampsia, a condition in which the mother’s blood pressure skyrockets, typically during the last trimester, putting both the mom and baby in danger. On top of that, she vomited throughout her entire pregnancies, her allergies to chemicals got worst, she still has some incontinence and when her kids were born she had problems lactating.

“Brushing my teeth made me throw-up,” she said. “The throwing up was so violent that I had no control over anything. This wasn’t just morning sickness.” No one knows why some women feel horrible while pregnant, while others feel fabulous, says Cynthia DeTata, co-director of obstetrics and gynecology clerkship at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“It does not seem fair, does it? At the very least, women can take comfort in knowing that all of these changes stem from a hormonal environment that supports a healthy placenta and baby,” she says.

Typical Changes During Pregnancy:


Morning sickness, which doesn’t necessarily always happen in the morning, is usually the body’s way of fending o! Toxins with either nausea or vomiting in the early stages of pregnancy, says Regina L. Arvon, associate director of prenatal diagnosis at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

“It may be your body’s way of telling you not to eat the things you are eating,” she said.

The best things you can do is eat small portions of protein like cashews and pieces of cheese, take vitamin B6 and eat ginger, says Arvon.

Large breasts.

The noticeable growth in breasts that many pregnant women experience is the body’s way of preparing to feed the baby.

“Most people % nd this to be one of the perks of pregnancy, but with this growth comes some increased sensitivity of the nipples,” DeTata says.

A supportive, well-fitting bra should help.

Feeling tired.

Basically, all of your energy is focused on the growing baby inside you, and this symptom should start to subside by the second trimester. Cut back on daily tasks and get a lot rest.

Retaining fluids.

The growing uterus sits on top of a main vein that returns blood to the heart, and the pressure can cause swelling in the lower half of the body such as the ankles and feet.

Putting your feet up can help blood return to the heart, and exercise helps blood vessels become more agile.

Backache and leg pains.

This is usually caused by the uterus pushing on nerves, weight gain and the spine moving back in the body.

Putting your feet up and wearing comfortable shoes can help.


If a pregnant woman does not drink a lot of water, some of the fluid from her intestines is pulled out, causing constipation and sometimes hemorrhoids from the straining, DeTata says. This can also happen after the baby is born. Make sure to drink a lot of & uids and increase fiber intake.

Leaky bladder.

The growing uterus changes the angle of urethra causing bladder control issues.

Kegel exercises have been proven to prevent urinary incontinence, Arvon says. It involves contracting and relaxing the muscles that surround the vagina and urethra.


This is caused by the uterus pushing up on the esophagus. Avoid spicy foods, try not lie down for two hours after eating and take an antacid, such as Tums.

Urinary frequency.

Basically, the uterus is pushing on the bladder, resulting in less space for urine. Kegel exercises can help.

Stretch marks.

This has to do with genetics and weight gain, DeTata says. These annoying marks happen when the skin is stretched so much that the collagen fibers underneath break apart.

Most of the lotions and potions sold don’t work because none of them can penetrate the skin down to the collagen " bers, DeTata says. Retin A cream can help with appearance of stretch marks, but it can’t be used until after delivery and breastfeeding are done.

But you can make sure you do not exceed the required 300 additional calories a day during pregnancy, she says.


Only 5 percent of pregnant women develop preeclampsia, a condition in which blood pressure becomes dangerously high usually in third trimester.

Symptoms can include high blood pressure, protein in the urine, heartburn, swelling in the lower and upper half of the body, blurry vision and headaches. It can become eclampsia, when a woman has seizures and her organs begin to shut down. Usually, the only way to bring the mother’s blood pressure back down is to deliver the baby.

While there is no medical explanation for why this happens, there are several theories, Arvon says.

“The most recent theory is the embryo doesn’t have a good a$ achment to the uterine wall,” she says. “But nobody really knows for sure why it happens.”

Typical Changes After Birth:

Temporary bleeding.

After delivery, there is always some bleeding that usually subsides a# er several weeks. Some women become a li$ le anemic because of the bleeding and may need to take some iron supplements, Arvon says.

Engorged breasts.

This is a sign that your breasts are working properly to feed the baby, and it usually occurs two to five days after delivery. Breastfeeding on demand or pumping milk signi" cantly helps. A supportive and well-fitting bra is also important.

But if your breasts are in extreme pain, hot to the touch, red in some areas or swollen more in one place, see a doctor, since you might have an infection.

Weight retention.

Up until 1996 most women retained about five pounds after giving birth. Now it is nine pounds, says Arvon, who is doing a study on the subject. It could be that women are having babies later in life or that they are continuing to take in extra calories a# er they have stopped breastfeeding. Arvon says it is important that women watch their caloric-intake, even when they are breastfeeding, and to not exceed the recommended 300 additional calories per day.

Leaky bladder.

When the baby is being delivered, its head pushes down on the vagina and urethra stretching the muscles in that area. Kegel exercises can help tighten these muscles.