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Physical Changes in the Mother During Pregnancy


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Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
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Pregnancy causes many changes in a woman’s body. Some, like your belly growing larger, are common and expected. Other physical changes can indicate a problem. Most of the physical changes of pregnancy go away after you give birth.

What physical changes are cause for concern?

High blood pressure and high blood sugar (diabetes) can develop during pregnancy. These can be dangerous for you and your baby. Certain symptoms are warning signs of complications from these or other diseases.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms during your pregnancy:

  • Strange headaches, or headaches that won’t go away

  • Light-headedness

  • Eyesight problems

  • Pain or cramps in your lower belly

  • Contractions

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Leaking fluid from your vagina (which could be amniotic fluid)

  • Swelling in your hands or feet

  • Less urine than usual

  • Any illness or infection

  • Tremors (shaking of your hands or feet)

  • Seizures

  • Fast heart rate

  • Less movement from your baby

What physical changes happen in early pregnancy?

In the very beginning of pregnancy, you may have:

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Mood swings

  • A need to urinate more often and more urgently

  • Swollen, tender breasts

  • Increased discharge from your vagina

Morning sickness

Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up are very common in pregnancy. This is caused by pregnancy hormones in your body. Despite the name "morning sickness," you can feel sick to your stomach and throw up at any time of day. Some pregnant women throw up so often and for so long that they need medicine or IV fluids.

To lessen morning sickness, try the following:

  • Drink and eat small amounts often

  • Eat before you notice you're hungry

  • Eat bland foods like rice or pasta

  • Keep crackers by your bed so you can eat a little before you get up


Heartburn (a burning pain in your chest) is common in pregnancy. Heartburn is caused by stomach acid going back up your esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach).

To lessen heartburn, try the following:

  • Eat smaller meals

  • Do not lie down for several hours after eating

  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and aspirin

  • Take liquid antacids

If heartburn disturbs your sleep, try the following:

  • Don't eat for several hours before bed

  • Use several pillows to raise your head, or raise the head of your bed

What physical changes happen in late pregnancy?

During late pregnancy, you may be especially tired. You may have physical changes like:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Stuffiness in your nose

  • Loosening joints

  • Yellow or white fluid from your nipples


As your belly grows, your spine curves to balance the weight.

To lessen backache and avoid injury:

  • Don't lift heavy things

  • Bend from your knees, not your waist

  • Try to maintain good posture

  • Wear supportive, flat shoes

  • Wear a belly band or maternity girdle

Varicose veins

Swelling can cause varicose veins in your legs.

To ease aching from varicose veins:

  • Wear support hose

  • Rest with your legs up

  • Lie on your left side

How will my breasts change during pregnancy?

Your breasts will get larger and may feel tender.

The skin around your nipples may darken.

At the end of pregnancy, a thin, yellowish, or milky fluid, called colostrum, will come out of your nipples. This fluid has lots of antibodies and minerals. It provides the first food to a breastfed baby.

How will my skin change during pregnancy?

Pregnancy hormones can cause your skin to look different. Many of these changes go away or fade after you have your baby.

You may get:

  • Brownish patches on your forehead or cheeks (melasma)

  • Darkening of the skin around your nipples

  • A dark line running down your belly

  • Stretch marks on your belly

  • Small, red, spiderlike patterns (spider angioma)

  • A very itchy rash that happens only in pregnancy, usually in the 2nd or 3rd trimester

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NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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