Women's Healthcare Topics

Physical Consequences of Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Changes of Pregnancy and Delivery

Your overall health and well being will impact your ability to deal with the physical changes of pregnancy successfully. One of the best things you can do to ensure a rapid physical recovery is partake in regular prenatal care, eat well and exercise hroughout your pregnancy and in the period after.

The physical changes that occur during pregnancy will affect every woman differently. Remember that it is important to consider your personal situation when gauging the best approach to dealing with the physical toll of pregnancy and delivery.

There is no one size fits all method for dealing with the changes that occur during this time, but there are many things you can do to improve your experience and enjoy your pregnancy.

Learn about the physical changes that occur during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Changes

Nausea, fatigue, backaches and weight gain are common physical complaints among pregnant women. Physical changes that are most universally expressed among women who are pregnant include:

  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Skin changes

Here are some tips for relieving these symptoms to the best of your ability:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Maintain some form of exercise, such as walking, throughout your pregnancy.
  • Maintain good posture and consider the use of a maternity support belt during pregnancy.
  • Be sure to get regular pre-natal care and describe any worrisome symptoms to your physician.
  • Get as much rest as possible.

Post Partum

The better you care for yourself during your pregnancy, the more quickly you will recover from the physical effects of labor.

If you have a normal and uncomplicated pregnancy, regular exercise throughout your pregnancy and after will help you recover more swiftly.

There are a number of specific physical changes that occur in the post partum period that may require specific treatment, described below.


There is always the chance that you may tear or have an episiotomy during pregnancy. A tear or episiotomy will be repaired via stitches.

The recovery from either of these injuries to the perineum can range from very uncomfortable to very painful for some women, depending on the severity of the tear or the length of the incision.

Pain may affect your ability to sit, walk comfortably or use the bathroom for up to a week or two after delivery. Some things you can do to reduce your discomfort include the following:

  • Use an ice pack directly applied to the perineal area.

  • Try sitz baths on a daily basis.

  • Use an anesthetic spray on the affected area.

  • Use stool softeners.

  • Consider witch hazel pads applied to the incision area.

Common Post Partum Changes

Other physical changes common to women in the post partum period include:

  • Separated pubic symphysis - this occurs when a narrow section of cartilage and ligament in the pelvic girdle separate during pregnancy. It is not a dangerous condition but may be painful. Your doctor can describe certain exercises to help you cover from this condition.

  • Breast engorgement and mastitis - This is a common physical complaint among new mothers. The best thing you can do to alleviate the discomfort is warm your breasts prior to feeding to help milk let down, pump a bit to soften your nipple and wear a strong support bra. Mastitis is an infection caused by clogged milk ducts, and may need to be treated by antibiotics.

  • After pains - After pains occur as your uterus shrinks back to normal in the post partum period. They may feel like menstrual cramps, and can usually be relieved by over the counter medications such as Tylenol.

  • Fatigue and exhaustion - Recovery from fatigue and exhaustion takes time. The best thing you can do for yourself is sleep as much as possible in the post partum period. Remember to rest when your baby does!


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