Nausea, fatigue, constipation, tender breasts, weepiness…. does any of this sound familiar? If you are or have ever been pregnant, this probably sounds pretty typical. Pregnancy symptoms like these are so well-known that they are often taken for granted. But have you ever stopped to wonder why your body is behaving like this?
Here are some of the causes of those oh, so familiar “joys” of pregnancy.
Research has suggested that higher levels of the hormones estrogen and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) could be to blame, as morning sickness (which can occur at any time of the day or night!) tends to peak around the same time as hormone levels do. Pregnancy queasiness usually fades by the beginning of the second trimester, when hCG levels begin to decline. A strong reaction to a newly heightened sense of smell is another likely culprit. The smells of foods you have always hated (or once loved!) can suddenly have you running for the bathroom! This increased gag reflex can even be triggered by the action of brushing your teeth! In some women, nausea and vomited could be attributed to the psychological stress of pregnancy. Although studies vary on evidence of this, the incidence of morning sickness in unplanned pregnancies does tend to be slightly higher.
The hormone progesterone is likely to blame for most pregnancy fatigue. But the body itself is taxed much more by growing a baby. A pregnant woman’s blood volume increases, so the heart has to work harder. Digestion and absorption of nutrients becomes a little slower and less efficient as well (this is the main cause of constipation and bloating during pregnancy, as well). Coping with pregnancy mood swings can also be exhausting! Many women’s fatigue could also be due to caffeine withdrawal symptoms, psychological stress, and/or the effect of waking up at night to urinate! Plus, by late pregnancy, a woman is typically toting around over twenty-five pounds of extra weight, all day, every day! No wonder pregnancy wipes most women out!
Often one of the earliest symptoms to show up, breast tenderness is due to the increased estrogen in a pregnant woman’s body. Her breasts are preparing to make milk! Blood flow to the breasts increases and veins become more visible, as layers of fat and milk-making cells and ducts are added. This often results in a much larger bust, at least until after the baby is born!
Stress and exhaustion can be causes of moodiness even in people who are not pregnant, but the dramatic hormone changes in a pregnant woman’s body often make them much more frequent and/or intense. Don’t underestimate the psychological impact of adjusting to a huge life change, seeing one’s body begin to change, and concern for the fetus’ health! Having a supportive partner and/or friends and family can go a long way toward easing a pregnant woman’s stress, contributing to fewer mood swings.
Of course, not all pregnant women will experience all of the symptoms mentioned above, but these are among the most common. But nearly all women consider these minor discomforts well worth enduring in exchange for the reward of a beautiful new baby!