Stages of Pregnancy Development

Pregnancy stages can offer shocking changes!

A woman experiences many body changes as she goes through the stages of pregnancy development. Not only is the baby developing in the womb, but she is experiencing a lot of changes in her own body. Knowing what to expect and strategies for dealing with unwelcome changes can make being pregnant a lot easier on expectant mothers.

Digestive Changes

From the stomach to the bowels, the digestive organs seem to go haywire when a woman gets pregnant.

Stomach Problems

An early pregnancy symptom that many women experience is morning sickness. Unfortunately, this nauseous feeling can be at any time of the day or night and can last through the entire first trimester. However, it can be controlled by eating small meals with lots of carbohydrates.

As the stages of pregnancy development continue, mothers may notice they cannot eat as much in one sitting as they could prior to pregnancy. As the uterus grows to accommodate the baby, other organs get pushed around, including the stomach. Again, eating small meals can help a woman get all the nutrients she and her baby need.

Constipation

Towards the end of the second trimester of pregnancy and throughout the third, women may experience constipation. As a result of constipation, hemorrhoids can develop due to straining during difficult bowel movements. Eating foods high in fiber, like cereals, breads, and vegetables, can help the digestive tract move along. Hemorrhoids can be treated with ice packs or doctor-approved over the counter creams and medications.

Heartburn

As the baby takes up more room in the womb, little is left over for the stomach to digest food. Sometimes, it can back up and cause heartburn. This combination of stomach acid and partially digested food can be painful and uncomfortable coming back up the esophagus. Prevent heartburn by eating bland foods in small amounts throughout the day, stopping several hours before sleeping. Propping up the back and chest slightly while sleeping can help aid digestion and reduce heartburn.

Skin Changes

A woman's skin will undergo numerous changes throughout pregnancy. Although most women know that stomach stretch marks are common, they may not realize stretch marks can appear on their buttocks, hips, thighs, calves, and even breasts as the skin stretches with weight gain. Using stretch mark creams can help with itching and may reduce some redness.

Other skin changes throughout the development of pregnancy include:

  • Linea nigra, a darkened line from the belly button to the pelvic bone
  • Chloasma, patches of dark spots on the face
  • Darkening of nipples and areolas
  • Pregnancy rashes, such as PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) and cholestasis
  • Development of spider or varicose veins
  • Worsening or possible reduction of acne or oil secretion in glands

To help combat these changes, women can use recommended products from their physicians. Makeup concealer may help cover chloasma, while keeping legs elevated when sitting can aid in vein issues.

Body and Weight Changes

When a woman is about nine months pregnant, she will have gained between 20 and 40 pounds. Doctors often recommend weight gain be somewhere from 25 to 35 pounds for healthy weight women pregnant with one baby. Along with weight gain, women can experience other problems related to pregnancy including:

  • Dizziness
  • Back pain
  • Fuzzy memory
  • Headaches
  • Aching legs or restless leg syndrome
  • Swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Breast tenderness
  • Leaking colostrum

As the uterus expands, women may experience "growing pains" called round ligament pain. Round ligament pain is caused when the round ligaments, which support the uterus, are stretched too quickly.

Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, can occur with pregnancy. This can cause women pain, tingling, or numbness usually centered in their hips, legs, and lower back. It usually happens during the third trimester of pregnancy. Doctors can recommend the best treatment for pregnant women, but wearing a maternity belt at home and work can offer some relief.

Sleep Changes

Fatigue is a common complaint for many women, but they might find it difficult to actually fall asleep at the end of the day. In the first trimester of pregnancy, nausea and breast soreness may make it difficult to get comfortable. As the stages of pregnancy development continue, lower back pain, an expanding belly, and fetal movement can all contribute to problems with sleep. Frequent urination will also become an issue, causing women to awaken in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

A maternity pillow can help reduce stress on a woman's back and support her stomach when she is pregnant. Following recommendations for natural sleep strategies during pregnancy may also help. Lying on her left side, keeping the room darkened and avoiding stress can all aid in sleep issues. More sleep tips for pregnant women can be found at the National Sleep Foundation.

Coping with Stages of Pregnancy Development

Even women who eagerly anticipated getting pregnant may find pregnancy more tiring or demanding than they expected. Managing the many pregnancy stages that a woman's body goes through is essential to her and her baby's well being. Depression in pregnancy can occur and it is even more vital in those situations to make a concentrated effort at making pregnancy as enjoyable as possible.

To help keep her spirits up when all of the various changes happen to her body through each stage of pregnancy, a woman may find comfort in:

Stages of Pregnancy Development