Being pregnant is a magical time.
The female body goes through some amazing changes. It is just another example of how extraordinarily well we have been made, in particular the female body . That’s not to say that men aren’t just as well made but that a female body has a few added layers of amazing-ness to help her make a baby.
I guess the first thing that happens other then an embryo beginning life is the surge of hormones. Each serving a particular purpose.
The first hormone, which is the one detected by a pregnancy test is human chorionic gonadotrpphic or HCG for short.
HCG is responsible for sending out the signals to the rest of the body to start getting ready for a baby. It is also what is responsible for morning sickness.
The name morning sickness is deceiving as it can occur at any time of the day and can be aggravated by strong smells or foods.
Just as in puberty our levels of oestrogen and progesterone increase, all carring out important jobs.
Oestrogen is the growth hormone. It actually allows your heart to grow by 1/3 to cope with the increased work required to pump all the blood need for both the baby and Mum.
Along with the baby’s growth, the uterus swells from the size of a pear to the size of a watermelon. Mum’s breasts also need to grow in preparation for lactation.
Progesterone is another very active hormone. Without its help Mum would be at risk throughout pregnancy suffering from high blood pressure but with a little help from progesterone relaxing smooth muscles Mum is safe. This means it dilates blood vessels, which prevents dramatic increases to the blood pressure.
This does however mean other smooth muscles also relax. This includes the bladder and digestive system causing constipation and frequent urination.
Relaxin is another vital component. This hormone allows for birth to happen without breaking Mum’s pelvis.
Relaxin does just what it says, it relaxes joints and ligaments. In an ideal world it would only be released at birth and only at the pelvis but it becomes apparent from week 2 and cannot stay localised, it affects the whole body.
This is why we have to be so carefully when exercising that we don’t injury ourself by moving too suddenly or in a difficult direction.
Phew that’s a lot going on without even thinking about the baby that is being made in Mum’s tummy.
What does all this activity mean?
It does make us more efficient at burning carbohydrates. This can mean that Mum’s previously on a zone or palio diet or even with just a diet content high in proteins will find they will crave carbs. It’s time to eat many small meals to help regulate blood sugar as chocolate and sweet sneaks can often be reached for as Mum’s sugar levels swing wildly.
Even more hard work!!!
Probably the most impressive adaptation is in the lungs. Our oxygen uptake has to increase to supply our baby with enough oxygen along with our requirements. This means our intake increases by 40% per minute. We have also become very sensitive to carbon dioxide, which means we get breathless when exerting ourself, even slightly! With increased blood volume to carry the extra oxygen this means that cardiac output is increased by 30% elevating our resting heart rate 10-15 beats per minute.
Is it no wonder we need to take it easy from time to time, or assess our intensity levels when you realise just how much work the body is doing!!
It is easy for the first few weeks or months to forget what is going on as you don’t really feel pregnant or have a bump to show off but all these things above are happening pretty much from the get go. The most important job is making your baby and keeping healthy.