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Head-to-Toe Visible Physical Changes You May Experience During Pregnancy

Updated on January 19, 2015

Introduction

As I write this I’m in my 38th week of pregnancy, so this is a fresh experience, not a distant memory. These are visible, physical changes that I noticed in my body, as the result of pregnancy. In talking about these with other women I found out that they are pretty common. All women are different, so you might not experience all of these physical changes. Also, there may be additional physical changes that I didn’t experience that you might.

Temporary hair dyes DO NOT cover gray hair.
Temporary hair dyes DO NOT cover gray hair.

Head

If you’re taking your pre-natal vitamins, like you’re supposed to, expect hair to grow in thicker and faster. Most women say that their hair also gets shinier. I have very shiny hair to begin with, so for me it actually became coarser as it thickened.

If you’re avoiding dyeing your hair, which is recommended during pregnancy, your roots will grow in, grays and all. Since your hair is also growing faster due to pre-natal vitamins, that means very visible roots and grays. My research said that you could use non-permanent dye or henna based dyes. I tried non-permanent dye, but after the first wash it begins to fade.

Face

Forget pregnancy glow! In the beginning skin got oilier due to hormone changes. I experienced small pimples and whiteheads.

In the second trimester you have to watch out for brown spots that appear on your cheeks. They look like sunspots. This is known as pregnancy mask, and it doesn't fade after pregnancy. To avoid this wear sunblock.

Near the end skin looks dull, with under-eye circles, due to lack of sleep. Skin around your nose may peel from blowing your nose often. Many women experience congestion and dryness. A bedside personal humidifier may help.

Exfoliate and moisturize often. It’s recommended that you use organic, natural skin care lotions and face washes. Certain ingredients, found especially in acne medications, can be harmful to the fetus. Many ingredients found in lotions have been known to cause birth defects in mice. Why risk your baby, buy something organic.

You may also experience puffiness and <gasp> the makings of a double chin due to weight gain.

Breasts

You’ll notice dramatic changes in the appearance of your breasts. In the first trimester you will notice them getting larger. Then you will notice your areola (area around your nipples) will darken considerably, and spread outward taking up about 4x the area that they did before pregnancy. In short, by the time you’re ready to deliver your breasts will look like the ones you see in a National Geographics magazine. Don’t be surprised if what was formally pink, has now turned dark brown.

Swollen hands and fingers may make it necessary to buy a fake wedding band.
Swollen hands and fingers may make it necessary to buy a fake wedding band.

Underarms

I had a few sessions of laser hair removal on my underarms years ago. After that my underarm area was no longer discolored or bumpy, and thin hair grew in every once in a while. In pregnancy my underarm hair started to grow back more. It probably had to do with the pre-natal pills. Worse though, the bumpiness came back. I also noticed a few skin tags, which I’ve never had before. I found out that skin tags developing during pregnancy is common. They like to grow in warm areas that rub.

Hands

My fingers were swollen pretty early on. It became apparent that if I didn’t take off my engagement ring & wedding band they might cut-off circulation to my finger soon. I bought a thin band that looked similar to my wedding band at Claire’s accessories store. I didn’t want to have to deal with the looks from people thinking that I was an unwed mother. Like hair, nails grow longer faster and stronger.

Linea Nigra & a belly button that has almost popped.
Linea Nigra & a belly button that has almost popped.

Stomach

Naturally the skin on your stomach stretches and extends to accommodate the baby. To avoid stretch marks, it’s recommended that you moisturize on a regular basis. Palmers Cocoa Butter is highly recommended. Personally I don’t like the smell of it. I bought an organic body lotion by Mama Mio called O-Mega Super-Rich Body Cream and used this all over my body. I don’t have any visible stretch marks, but to be honest I think it’s something that’s hereditary that plays a big part in that.

In my third trimester I also had hair start to grow on my stomach. Unlike arm hair, the hair stood straight out from my body. Your belly button may even pop out - an innie becoming an outie. I normally have a very deep belly button. So much of what was inside has come out, that the area around my belly button is discolored because it has never seen the sunlight before. It's a weird yellowish/green color. As I'm getting closer to my due date, the area looks bruised.

I also have linea nigra – the dark line that appears running up the center of your belly. It started showing up in my second trimester. It ran from my pubic bone all the way up to my chest

Vagina

As your stomach extends you will have more and more difficulty maintaining this area. If you get waxed professionally, you’ll have to trust that your waxer is doing their job. If you trim or shave yourself, you will need to become a contortionist and use several mirrors angled in different directions. Again, like your underarms, hair will grow in faster. Later in pregnancy your labia will also thicken and darken. The coloring is similar to the changes you’ll notice in your areola.

A swollen ankle, foot & toes.
A swollen ankle, foot & toes.

Legs

Some women complain about broken blood vessels, capillaries or thick dark veins showing up. I didn’t have this happen to me on my legs, but I do have a broken capillary on the inside of one ankle. My legs, from the knee down, are swollen. Usually I have small calves, now I have cankles (calf going into ankles). You can tell if your leg is swollen, the same way that you check if you have sunburn. Press on your skin with your finger. If it leaves a white mark that disappears, it’s swollen. The skin on your legs will also feel very tight. Leg & foot massages help.

Feet

By the beginning of my second trimester I had to buy new shoes because my feet were so swollen that my shoes didn’t fit anymore. As well as being wider, the top of my foot is swollen. If I put a ballerina flat shoe on, the area that’s in the shoe will go down, and what’s not in the shoe will puff out. It looks like when you open up a refrigerated Pillsbury biscuit tube and the dough pours out. My toes look like pigs in a blanket. They say that keeping your feet elevated will make the swelling diminish. I wake up with my feet looking like this.

Poll

Which physical change are you most worried about experiencing?

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Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy

Comments

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      My wife and I were recently pregnant. We had real problems with swelling.

      Great hub.

    • Crazy Mags profile image

      Crazy Mags 5 years ago

      Congrats! How exciting. I have been dreaming about another baby.... Pregnancy for me was a mixed bag. I was so excited about being pregnant that it outweighed a lot of the "cons" to pregnancy. But, I did have constant nausea my first trimester-- Not much throwing up, just always felt like I wanted to. My worst physical ramifications of pregnancy were swollen fingers, bleeding gums, and I had break outs on my face and back the first trimester.

    • CynDwyer profile image
      Author

      CynDwyer 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I didn't experience bleeding gums, but I have heard that dental problems can be an issue. It's recommended that when you're pregnant you make sure to go to the dentist three times, rather than the usual twice, for cleanings and check-ups.

    • aDayInMyLife1 profile image

      Amanda S 5 years ago from CA

      One thing that I had, which I guess can be common, was bleeding gums due to the increase in blood volume during pregnancy. My gums would bleed very easily and I had to become accustomed to a metallic taste in my mouth for the better part of my pregnancy. Great Hub, and thanks for sharing your pictures. It will all be over with soon and will be so worth it. Congrats.

    • CynDwyer profile image
      Author

      CynDwyer 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I wish that I knew what to expect in terms of these changes, although I don't know how much it would've prepared me either way.

    • buckleupdorothy profile image

      buckleupdorothy 5 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      Congratulations, and great hub. It must feel good to do something productive with all that discomfort! I have it on good authority that stretchmarks are almost entirely hereditary but haven't had the heart to ask my mother yet.

    • CynDwyer profile image
      Author

      CynDwyer 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Thanks for the feedback. I thought that writing it all down while it's still fresh would be the most honest description, before the reality fades & I sugar coat it with the happiness of having my baby. Congratulations on your pregnancy as well.

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 5 years ago from USA

      Hi Cyndwyer,

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! Wow, you are in your 38th week. Your baby will be here before you know it. I am in the 4th month of my 2nd pregnancy and I am very excited. This is an interesting hub. You offer valuable information and are very forthcoming. That is generous of you. Your swelling seems to be quite a bit but I'm sure you find comfort in knowing it's just a temporary state. In addition to hair, I would add that my nails have grown a lot. I don't know if you have had the same experience? Well, congrats again and thanks for a great comprehensive hub.