Sometimes the penny only drops for a woman that she is pregnant after she notices changes starting to happen in her body. Other times, changes start to happen and you are still getting negative results on a pregnancy test.

When do changes typically start to happen?

Obviously the main change you can expect to see is the swelling of your stomach as your baby grows inside you. This will start to happen from around the 12th week of gestation. A slight swelling from hormones can begin to show at around the 8th week, but the major swelling in the abdomen will only really start from the 15th week. However, if you’re on your second pregnancy, it’s possible that these signs will all start showing a little earlier in the process.

Aside from the obvious visual changes in a woman’s body, there are numerous other changes that happen during pregnancy. You will notice things are different from week to week as your hormones set off different elements of gestation. Some changes will happen gradually and others will seem overnight – it all depends on your particular body.

Major changes you can expect during pregnancy

There are so many hormones at work in your body during the gestation process, and each person reacts differently to this, making it difficult to predict exactly what you will experience. You may find that one day you are hungry all the time and have trouble sleeping. The next week you may get hot flushes and over heat very quickly. Just remember that your body is in a state of constant flux and it’s important to know what kind of symptoms you should be on the lookout for.

Expected changes

The changes in your hormones can cause nausea (morning sickness), heartburn and indigestion. These can all happen before you even know you are pregnant and may cause you to wonder if you should take a test.

Early on, you can also experience cramps or a feeling of heaviness in your lower back. The lower abdomen or pelvic area may also feel harder or like it’s tightening. These symptoms are very similar to a coming menstruation.

Many women experience a change in their tastes and a heightened sense of smell. Their favorite food or drink may suddenly taste or smell like it’s gone off. Strong scents like perfume, coffee and cleaning products can even induce nausea. Don’t worry, you should go back normal and be able to wear your favorite perfume again once you’ve given birth.

Problems with digestion are also very common symptoms. You may find yourself either getting constipated regularly or on the other end of the scale with diarrhea or loose stools.

Then there are the symptoms that are generally associated with pregnancy because they are the ones we see most often. These include larger breasts, expansion in the waist, a fuller face due to hormonal changes and weight gain. Many women also see some changes in coloration in their skin – specifically in the nipples and the linea nigra, which runs from the pelvic area up to the belly button. Additionally, you may start to actually see some of your veins as your blood gets darker through increased circulation.

Discomforts

While most of the above symptoms are very common, some of them aren’t terribly pleasant. The digestion problems, for example, can cause major discomfort and some embarrassment.Women have reported being unable to control the release of gas (farting or burping) in public.

Changes you should expect as your pregnancy progresses

There are certain changes that most women experience, but not always at the same stage of pregnancy. For example, your skin and hair tend to become drier and oilier. Additionally, chloasma is a common symptom that can be experienced mildly or very intensely. This is a discoloration of the skin on the face that should go away after giving birth.

As your pregnancy progresses, you can expect to see and feel plenty of changes in the different trimesters.

Second trimester changes

In the second trimester, you should be starting to show quite significantly. This increase in weight and size can have an impact on your legs now. The changes in your blood circulation also affect your legs. Some women get varicose veins and blood vessels start to show under the skin.
You may also find yourself walking differently. Your growing abdomen may throw off your balance and you have to widen your stance in order to walk and stand comfortably. It’s not the most elegant way to walk, but it works.

Changes in the third trimester

Gestational hypertension (previously known as pregnancy-induced hypertension or PIH) is very important to watch out for at this stage. The signs are high blood pressure and no protein in your urine. If your doctor picks up a spike or increase in your blood pressure, they will immediately check for this form hypertension. It’s essential to pick it up as soon as possible so that you can try and prevent preeclampsia.

By the third trimester, your body has also expanded quite dramatically in
order to accommodate the growing fetus. Your muscles and organs have stretched, moved and given way as the uterus expands. Back pain is also a regular feature for most women at this stage of gestation.

Your pregnant belly should be very apparent now. Don’t try to hide it away, enjoy this time as you get ready to bring a child into the world. Wear it as a badge of pride. Remember, no two pregnancies are alike. Each one is unique and special.

Readers’ questions:

Can a strange feeling in my stomach be a sign I’m pregnant?

It depends on the sensation, after all not everything that we feel in the abdomen is evidence of gestation. However, if this “strange feeling in the stomach” comes at the same time as other symptoms, like menstrual delay, breast tenderness, nausea and dizziness, you may be pregnant.

Do the changes I experience during my pregnancy return to normal after the baby’s birth?

The return of the body to its previous state depends on several factors. Some women are blessed with the right genetics to return to “normal” quickly and easily. In other cases, a healthy lifestyle both before and after the gestation period will help a lot in returning to “normal”. The process may also take different lengths of time from one woman to another and from one pregnancy to another.
Some changes like larger breasts and oily skin may never go back to the way they were before.

Does hair change during a pregnancy?

Quite often it does, yes. Many women get silky, shiny hair that is very soft while their hormones fluctuate in their bodies. Women with curly hair often report that it becomes smoother, while those with straight hair say it becomes wavier.

Can my feet increase in size during my pregnancy?

It has now been proven that this can actually happen. Some women experience an increase of up to 10 millimeters in their feet. The cause of this is actually the weight of your growing baby. It can press down on your feet while you’re standing and walking, and cause the arches in the feet to flatten. If this occurs, your feet normally remain like this even after the baby is born.