Pregnancy is a beautiful, messy and confusing time all at once. With every change, I’ve wondered why in a baby and bump obsessed media culture, I haven’t seen the important stuff: what the heck actually happens to mama in the process. I won’t bore you with the usual commonly discussed changes that the websites, apps and most doctors warn you about. Growing, swelling, stretching, vomiting and crying are all things that you’ve seen in the movies and heard before. Here’s the stuff that nobody tells you (continued from my Part 1)!
Before we dive in, I want to acknowledge that the intention of sharing this information is not to scare anyone or make pregnancy out to be a painful or stressful time (you will never see me label changes with those words!). I believe that being empowered with the knowledge of what to expect will if anything do the opposite and make future mamas, current mamas, besties and partners aware and confident in understanding the incredible changes a woman’s body undergoes during pregnancy.
Five Unexpected Pregnancy Changes Part II:
The Change: Abs start to split
I had heard that abdominal muscles can “split” during labor and birth, but had no idea this could happen earlier in pregnancy. During my second trimester I felt uncomfortable up near where the bottom of my bra sits. I figured this was due to the pressure of my endlessly growing large chest sitting on top of my baby bump.
When I told my regular OB she speculated that it was probably some high up uterine muscles stretching. However, when I went to see a holistic OB, she felt the area and discovered that I had a 2-3 finger separation in my upper ab muscles. From what I have heard and read, most women will experience some sort of separation during pregnancy and almost all women will by the time they deliver baby. In my case it is uncomfortable, but this is not always the case and it sometimes goes undetected. Here is a great post from Wellness Mama with more info and diagrams.
The Fix: New exercise routine and help from experts
I have continued visiting the holistic OB for a number of reasons, but she also monitors and has been checking to see if it has gotten any worse- which it hasn’t because of some changes I have made. I want to caution you that you will hear a range of suggestions for anything that comes up during pregnancy and you always have to go with what feels right. For me, I err on the side of caution in many cases, which is what I did this time. While other doctors/experts told me I could continue my usual exercise, my doula advised to stick to walking and restorative yoga. Most exercise activates your core and once the abs have split you need to be really careful about letting these muscles rest until undergoing more of a rehab plan for them. I feel good about doing what I can to make sure they don’t get worse during pregnancy and working on strengthening them with experts during postpartum.
The Change: Pelvic floor tension
This is a super common one! As the belly starts to put more weight on the pelvic floor, some women may start experiencing tightness and tension in the area. I was also told that my abs splitting and lack of ab muscle during pregnancy contributes because those muscles aren’t working to help with the extra weight. Like anything, this varies from person to person. I know some women who have had similar daily discomfort earlier like I am experiencing and others who don’t at all or only do at the very end. It makes it hard for me to walk and engage in many normal daily movements like getting comfy in bed or getting out of the car.
The Fix: Extra belly support, exercise ball and help from experts
Going to a chiropractor who specializes in pelvic floor/pregnancy has really helped. I got a recommendation for one from my doula who I switched to from the regular more sports injury chiropractor I was previously seeing. She taped me, which is what the bandage looking things are in the picture below. The tape has helped take pressure from my belly off my pelvic floor. I also got taped during marathon training to help with my hips and it really helped- so I highly suggest looking into this for many different physical/muscular issues. I tried different belly bands/shirts/leggings suggested for this and didn’t find them to be helpful, but some people do! I like that the tape is on me and I don’t have to apply some tight, confining contraption. Sitting on an exercise ball also helps take the pressure off and is commonly recommended for pregnant women whether they are experiencing discomfort or not! Finally, restorative yoga with the amazing prenatal savvy teachers at my yoga studio is doing wonders for my body and also preparing me for birth!
The Change: Cup size continues to increase dramatically
Sore/growing boobs was one of the first signs when I found out I was pregnant, but didn’t by any means end then. Every time I think they are done growing, I am proved wrong and have heard that this will only continue at the end of pregnancy/beginning of postpartum.
The Fix: Switch to comfortable pregnancy/nursing bras
I’ve totally give up on regular/underwire bras and have been so impressed with the comfortable and affordable collection of nursing bras at Target. They are stretchy and comfortable enough to wear and grow into during pregnancy, plus an actual investment I would have needed to make anyway for postpartum. I got a variety of brands and styles based on what felt most comfortable and fit me- but there are a lot of great choices. If you are ordering online know that most of them will really work for any band size and just think about your cup size. I got an extra large in all of them because of my cup size and the bands still all fit even though I am usually a 32 for band, which was such a pleasant surprise. I also really like this nursing cami from Target with built in bras which has been super comfy and fit well during pregnancy. The large has worked for me, so again, size based on chest for these items even if you wear smaller clothing usually.
The Change: Body temperature rises
I am one of those people who is always cold, and laughed when people told me I would always be hot during pregnancy. I am definitely not always hot my any means, but get way hotter than I usually do! I used to wear socks and long pajamas to bed and now can’t even imagine having fuzzy socks on under the covers. Sweating EVERYWHERE is a normal part of my day even though I barely get my heart rate up and its still not hot here!
The Fix: Dressing in layers, changing clothes, lots of deodorant
Layers, layers, layers! I will go from being in a sweatshirt to being in a bra in 30 seconds. Frequent changes of bra and underwear followed by layering on tons of deodorant is a standard part of my day. I try to use natural deodorant most of the time, but don’t want to scare people so some days I have to follow it up with the regular stuff.
The Change: Return of the first trimester
This was mostly just a beginning of third trimester thing, but I think its important for people to be aware of! My nausea and stomach aches returned along with some detached/lonely feelings that I felt during the first trimester. Apparently the surge in hormones that happens around that time can cause similar sensations/feelings to the surge in the first trimester so this can happen. I would compare it to a wave of PMS symptoms that last about as long as those usually do. It definitely subsided a bit a week or two in. You also go back to being tired all the time, which does not go away- but I think is a pretty commonly shared change that is expected!
The Fix: Listening to your body, being easy on yourself
This is when I really had to start listening to my body and going easy on myself. I was already starting to go easy on my body physically due to the other changes I mentioned, but needed to be forgiving in other ways. Allowing myself to stay in bed. later, go home earlier, say no to things, rest and take on a little less helped me feel less overwhelmed and give me time and space to listen to my daily physical and emotional needs.