“A pregnant woman’s body is a scientific wonder.”
Mothers are constantly told they’re superheroes: for holding down the fort, doing unpaid work via the mental load, and, of course, enduring pregnancy and carrying a child to term. And while it might seem like platitudes, it’s scientifically, factually true that a pregnant woman’s body is a scientific wonder, steeped in resiliency that very few people who haven’t had the experience would understand.
When pregnant, your body goes through a complete overhaul to accommodate the new life growing inside you. This includes temporary changes to your endocrine system, cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, and more. It's amazing to see how resilient the human body is, especially when it's nurturing the growth of new life.
“Your body undergoes the most stress it probably ever will.”
Your body undergoes the most stress it probably ever will. It takes the same amount of endurance to carry a baby to term as it does to be an extreme sports athlete. Think about that for a second—a pregnant and or lactating body is going through the same pressure that an athlete climbing Mt. Everest is experiencing.
It begins with swollen, tender boobs, fatigue, and of course, a missed period. These symptoms are only the beginning—from the first trimester on, the body undergoes a massive amount of changes, such as:
- The heart enlarges and your blood flow increases to get the baby the oxygen needed to grow and get nutrients to your baby. Blood flow could increase by up to 100%, although most women experience somewhere around a 50% increase. This could raise your pulse and decrease your blood pressure. The increased circulation can also add to that radiant glow that comes with being pregnant and will go back to normal once you give birth.
- A pregnant body operates at 2.2 times its regular metabolic rate—that’s on par with the number of calories an elite athlete burns as they push their bodies to the human limit.
“You and your baby grow an entirely new organ together, the placenta. It’s the first and largest organ to develop following conception and it helps get your baby nutrients and oxygen. It leaves your body when the baby is born.”
- Your hormones start working overtime and change your entire body system. The placenta acts temporarily as an endocrine gland, helping to control the bodily functions of you and your baby. Those hormones do everything from relaxing tissue to stimulating the production of milk.
- Your spine adapts to your growing belly, and your ligaments relax to support it.
- You know your body expands through weight gain to support your growing baby, but it could also get wider, especially in your hips and ribs. While this isn’t true for all women, it is for some. After birth, it usually takes around 3 months for your body to go back to its original shape.
- Your stomach and other gastrointestinal organs get misplaced, which may cause constipation, heartburn, or acid reflux.
- You breathe deeper thanks to the progesterone rocking through your body to keep feeding your baby oxygen. Unfortunately, it can make you feel like you can’t catch your breath, but this usually improves once the baby “drops” in preparation for birth and is gone after delivery.
- Your voice could change and deepen with pregnancy thanks to hormones swelling the vocal cords temporarily.
- By the time you give birth in your third trimester, your uterus can stretch to be the size of a watermelon and weigh up to two pounds. About 6 weeks after giving birth, it goes back to its natural state and size.
While some of these body changes can feel scary, remember that all of these are temporary, and anything that stays with you after giving birth is only a sign that you did the hardest thing a human body can do. (Looking at you, stretch marks.) The things you endure in pregnancy and postpartum are because you’re growing a human being, which is an incredible feat. Are you in awe of yourself yet?