Women's  Healthcare Topics is a website about pregnancy and your newborn baby.

Physical Changes in Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Stretch Marks

Common body changes.

Unsightly little marks may begin appearing on your stomach, breasts, hips or thighs during this trimester. 90% of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy.

Stretch marks are red lines in the skin. They're sometimes itchy, but not always. After pregnancy, the lines fade to a silvery color.

What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks are caused when the skin expands beyond normal limits, hence the name. As your body begins to expand, your skin stretches right along with it. Skin's "stretch ability," known as elasticity, depends on the rate at which it stretches. The slower the body expands, the better able the skin is to adapt to the changes. So, the more steadily and conservatively a woman gains weight, the less likely she'll develop stretch marks. The skin only stretches so far without being damaged. That damage shows up as a stretch mark.

Sensible weight gain is the safest way to avoid stretch marks.
In terms of weight, slow and steady wins the stretch mark race.

Within the medical community, there's concern that some women limit food intake to avoid stretch marks. Very bad practice. Baby needs food to grow healthy and stretch marks are a small price to pay. Denying yourself food when pregnant is denying your child food. In a word: Don't.

  • Eat a balanced diet.

  • Keep your weight gain within the recommended range for your pre-pregnancy frame.

  • Keep yourself hydrated. Drink lots and lots of water.

  • Take your prenatal vitamins.

  • Moisturize your skin often.

Many parents (mothers and fathers, alike) consider stretch marks a rite of passage...a badge of motherhood and one of the small sacrifices moms make for the greatest little rewards in their lives. It's a great way to look at your growing stretch mark collection.

Nosebleeds and Congestion

Those pregnancy hormones are zooming through your body. The blood vessels in your nose and sinuses actually enlarge due to an increase in progesterone.

The larger blood vessels and increased hormones make the membranes of the nose and sinuses more sensitive to irritation. This may cause your nose to feel swollen, stuffy (with no other cold-like symptoms) and might even lead to nosebleeds.

These nosebleeds often begin in the second trimester and clear up once baby is born, if not before.

If you have a nosebleed, don't panic. Follow these steps to stop the bleeding.

  • Sit down someplace which is blood friendly (like the kitchen or bathroom). Don't lie down and don't tilt your head back (even though that's what we were taught to do as children). Staying upright prevents swallowing blood, which can lead to nausea.

  • Pinch the bleeding nostril with a paper towel or washcloth for at least four minutes. Even if you believe the bleeding has stopped, keep the pressure on for four minutes to allow clotting.

  • Ice packs constrict the blood vessels and stop the bleeding.

  • Disinfect any surfaces that came into contact with blood.

Bleeding Gums

The same hormones that cause nose bleeds also affect the mouth.

Larger blood vessels in gum tissue often lead to bleeding gums. It's not fun, but it's not dangerous, either. You simply need to take extra care when following your daily dental hygiene routine.

This is not an excuse to stop flossing. In fact, you should be sure to keep up your flossing in order to help keep your gums strong.

Visual Changes

Fifty percent of women report changes in vision during pregnancy. For most, the difference is slight and not something to be concerned about. In fact, most eye doctors don't even recommend changing existing eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions. These changes are temporary and usually slight.

Why does my vision change?
The cornea, or the lens of the eye, is made mostly of water. The eyeball itself is mostly water. A pregnant woman's body experiences change in water volume. That change of water affects the balance of water in the eyes, thereby affecting the shape of the eyeball and the lens. A woman's vision, ability to focus and contact lens fit will change with these fluid changes. As long as the change in sight is slight, there's no need to worry. Significant changes in vision or headaches with eye pain should be reported to your doctor.

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