The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote that, “Change is the only constant.” The Russian communist revolutionary, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin believed that, “There are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.” It would be difficult to argue with either of these very insightful statements that were made centuries apart. Apparently some things never change. If you are a pregnant woman, your body undergoes more changes over 40 weeks than it possibly underwent in the decades preceding it, and the change seems to pretty damn constant.
The Physiology of Change
Physiology is defined as “the branch of biology dealing with the functions and activities of living organisms and their parts, including all physical and chemical processes.” Consequently, physiological changes as they pertain to pregnancy refer to the physical and chemical changes that occur to the body during pregnancy. And there are plenty of them.
The female body as it adjusts to being an incubator for new life is one of the true wonders of the world.
The changes that it undergoes are nothing short of breathtaking especially when you consider that all these changes occur to protect both the mother and the fetus. Virtually every one of these changes is reversed once it as served its intended purpose and, within normal parameters, is a completely natural part of the process of creation.
Types of Changes
Physiological changes during pregnancy vary from the visible to the invisible and from the tangible to the intangible.
The most obvious change is the growth of various parts of the body. The stomach grows so that the fetus will be protected, and have room to grow and receive nourishment. The breasts and nipples grow as they prepare themselves to assist in the provision of life once the baby has exited the body.
Legs and feet grow and swell as they retain water. The waistline grows together with appetite as the body requires more food and nutrition to support two life forms rather than the usual one. The musculoskeletal structure also grows to accommodate all the additional weight and so that a pregnant woman can continue to walk, albeit with a different posture and gait.
Hormones flood the body to help it cope with its change in status, and even though it may feel as though the hormones only cause aggravation and mood swings, their role is vital to a healthy pregnancy and birth. The body is flooded with estrogen and this often results in morning sickness – a condition that affects approximately 50% of pregnant women. Thankfully it usually passes after the first trimester.
Heart rate, cardiac output, and stroke volume increase as blood volume and plasma increase by 40-50%.
This may result in anemia as platelet concentration decreases. And we have barely scratched the surface of the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy. It is all part of the perfectly orchestrated concert of child birth that has continued over millennia.
Now for a practical tip – learn to love and embrace change, as once a healthy baby exits the womb, the changes in life really begin.