What To Expect When You’re Expecting

Emotional Changes

During your pregnancy, you may experience some intense emotions: anxiety and excitement, grouchiness and tenderness, sadness and joy. It’s a time with many emotional possibilities.

It’s important to know there is no one “right” way to feel about your pregnancy. You may have lots of different feelings at the same time, or on different days. Feeling negative emotions about your pregnancy does not make you a “bad” parent. Feeling excited  about your baby doesn’t mean you don’t recognize the challenges of being a mom. Your feelings belong to you, and no one else should tell you how to feel.

Your hormones are very active while you are pregnant, and may influence your emotions. The surges of your hormones may cause you to feel a sudden change of mood, or generally feel more irritable. These changes are called “mood swings.”

Your emotions may also be influenced by other events in your life. In addition to the stress you may experience because you are pregnant, you will continue to have “regular life” experiences as well. Your relationships with family, your partner, and friends may affect your feelings, as well as your security in your living situation,

About 13% of pregnant women and new mothers experience depression. Rather than just feeling sad, depression is a disease that affects the brain.  While occasional crying and “feeling blue” is a normal part of pregnancy for many women, talk to your doctor if your feelings last more than two weeks, or begin to interfere with your life. Your doctor will be able to provide you with appropriate treatment to help you.

You may find the following activities helpful for managing your emotions:

  • healthy exercise, as recommended by your doctor
  • writing in a journal
  • talking to a person you trust about your feelings
  • doing activities you enjoy
  • taking a break from activities
  • make sure you’re getting enough rest—you might be grouchy because you’re tired!

Physical Changes

Physical changes begin the moment you conceive. Your body begins to change to support the growth of your baby. Hormones are a substance produced in your body to regulate its changes, and during pregnancy your body produces a lot of them. While hormones usually get all the credit for the emotional changes women experience while pregnant, they also govern many of the physical changes you may experience. While many women experience pregnancy in different ways, it can be helpful to know what commonly happens during each trimester.

Trimester 1—Weeks 1-12 of your pregnancy

During your first trimester, these physical changes may be among your first clues that you are pregnant. They include:

  • Stopped menstrual periods
  • “Morning sickness” or feeling nauseous or vomiting often. Despite the name, it does not only occur in the morning.
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Fatigue
  • Breast changes such as, your breasts enlarging, feeling tender, and the area around your nipples (areola) getting larger and darker in color.
  • Expanding uterus

Trimester 2—Weeks 13-27 of your pregnancy

During your second trimester, your uterus will continue to expand as your baby grows. Your body will make adjustments to accommodate your growing baby. This is the time where you’ll first feel your baby moving, and also when you’ll begin to “look pregnant” if you haven’t already.  During this period of time your heart will grow, and you’ll begin to produce more blood than usual.  Some of the other changes you’ll notice include:

  • Slower digestion, which can lead to constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • Heartburn
  • Backache and/or pinching of the sciatic nerve, due to the pressure of your uterus.
  • Increased frequency in urination
  • Changes in your skin, like stretch marks or dark patches, or dry itchy skin on your belly.
  • Retaining water
  • Increased sweating
  • You may have difficulty sleeping.
  • The development of a dark line from your pubic bone to your bellybutton, called the “linea nigra” which will slowly fade after you deliver your baby.
  • A harmless, white, odorless vaginal discharge, called leukorrhea.

Trimester 3—Weeks 28-40 of your pregnancy

As your baby’s birth approaches, your body will continue to shift and adjust to make room for it.  Your internal organs will move out of the way as your uterus expands —your heart will even turn on its side! In addition to the continuing changes from your second trimester, you may also notice:

  • varicose veins—swollen veins that may bulge near the skin’s surface
  • leg cramps
  • shortness of breath
  • Braxton Hicks contractions—contractions of the uterus, usually not painful
  • bellybutton sticking out, due to the expanding abdomen
  • colostrum production—a yellowish fluid produced by the glands in your breasts, to feed your baby

While some of these physical changes are uncomfortable or annoying, they are all ways your body prepares for the growth and birth of your baby. Ask your doctor for tips on how to relieve some of the uncomfortable parts of your pregnancy, or if you have questions about anything you experience.