Hormones produced during pregnancy can affect every part of your body- often in some surprising ways
There’s nothing like seeing your body change over nine months of pregnancy to help you feel connected to your unborn baby. For most women, it’s also a time when they may find the pregnancy changes their body in some ways they didn’t expect
‘Your body alters so much when you’re pregnant that you may not feel in control,’ says midwife Arezou Namazy, from London’s Kingston Hospital. ‘However, all these changes, whether it’s stiff joints or a stuffy nose, are good signs that your hormones are surging and your body is doing a brilliant job of growing your baby.’
Even better, with a little insider knowledge, you can take back some control. Our experts reveal how.
Symptom: Nose bleeds
Along with stuffiness, pregnancy could leave you prone to nose bleeds. ‘Hormonal changes soften the capillaries in your nose, making them more likely to rupture,’ says Arezou. It’s worse in cold weather, too, as central heating leaves your mucous membranes irritated.
How to help: ‘Stop your nose getting dry by using saline sprays or rubbing Vaseline at the base of your nostrils,’ says Jules Robertson, midwife for the baby charity Tommy’s. ‘Fill up on fluids, too. A hydrated body means a moist nose and less bleeding.’
Your body alters so much when you’re pregnant that you may not feel in control
Symptom: Hot flushes
If you’re suffering from hot flushes thanks to fluctuating hormones, you may find yourself getting very warm, very quickly. ‘Your body is working so much harder during pregnancy,’ says Jules. ‘By around 32 weeks, there’s up to 50% more blood circulating around your body and your vital organs, which can lead to a rise in body temperature. Your hands and feet might still feel chilly, though, as it takes longer for the blood to reach your extremities.’
How to help: Avoid synthetic clothes, which increase sweating, and opt for natural fibres, such as cotton, that let skin breathe.
Symptom: Aches and pains
Among all the other pregnancy hormones, your body produces one called relaxin from your first trimester onwards.
‘Cleverly, it softens your tissues, ligaments and muscles, so that they’re relaxed and ready for giving birth,’ says physiotherapist Jennifer Hall, from BMI Healthcare. ‘The downside is, you’re more susceptible to injury and pain, particularly around your back and pelvic region.’
How to help: Exercises that strengthen the core muscles in your abdomen will leave you less at risk of injuring your spine,’ says Jennifer. Try the glute bridge: lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Squeeze in your bottom and pelvis, then lift them a few inches off the ground. Hold for a couple of seconds, then lower. Do this five to 10 times. Rest and repeat for up to three sets.
Symptom: Constipation and haemorrhoids
Constipation is very common in pregnancy, when your bowel can become sluggish. ‘Your body is focused on the job of growing your baby, which means your digestive system becomes less of a priority,’ says Jules. As well as constipation, there’s a risk of haemorrhoids – painful swellings that develop after too much straining for the loo.
How to help: Drink between, not during, meals. ‘It’s essential to have plenty of fluids, but drinking while you eat dilutes the body’s enzymes that aid digestion,’ says nutritionist Amanda Hamilton.
Symptom: Weak bladder
Along with softening your pelvis for labour, relaxin affects the muscles in your pelvic floor. ‘This is what causes you to feel like you need to pee a lot,’ says Jules. And with pregnancy hormones flowing down your urine’s journey from your kidneys to your bladder, there’s more time for bacteria to grow and urinary tract infections to form.
How to help: Ward off infections by peeing when you need to and exercising your pelvic floor. ‘These muscles should be worked three times a day by tensing the muscles you would use to stop yourself mid-pee. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, then hold again. Repeat 10 times.’