Just what does having a baby do to your body? Neither the romanticising baby magazines nor the horror stories told by your granny and her contemporaries over the kitchen table, are likely to be the reality. We asked our most experienced maternity nurses what they would like every woman to know about how pregnancy changes the body.
Losing your hair
Under the effect of hormonal changes. More hair follicles are grown and resting and fewer are in the falling out phase. Which can lead to a luxuriant head of hair for some pregnant women. Others find their hair is heavy, lifeless and itchy. A good hairdresser and a simple haircare regime will help every woman. But it’s not a good time to be colouring or perming your hair as the chemicals may react unexpectedly on your newly hormonal hair. Simple vegetable dyes are fine as are highlights that don’t reach the scalp. Three to four months after pregnancy lots of those follicles get the ‘fall out’ message leading to the old wives’ tale about hair loss. But don’t believe it – within six months your hormone production will be back to normal and so will your hair.
Many contact lens wearers find pregnancy makes their corneas swell. Which can cause contacts to be more difficult to fit as well as making vision slightly blurrier. Our maternity nurses recommend visiting your optician who may be able to softer lenses, and lubricating eye drops can also be a help. Any other visual problems such as spots in front of the eyes or feeling like you have tunnel vision should be reported to your GP. They can be an early sign of hypertension or gestational diabetes. But as our professional maternity nurses point out, this is rare and shouldn’t be something the average woman worries about.
Acne, spider veins, stretch marks and linea nigra
If you watch the TV adverts, all pregnant women appear to get the famous ‘pregnancy glow’. But for many of us oily flare-ups, spotty T-zones and stretch marks are also very much in evidence, along with skin tags and a general itchiness. All our maternity nurses agreed that drinking plenty of water is vital to feeling comfortable. Also reducing the temperature of your bath or shower by a few degrees will also help. Don’t use creams containing Retin-A or alpha-hydroxy acids; they aren’t safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. A cream cleanser and oil containing shower gel will help deal with the itchiness. One of our most experienced maternity nurses suggested that soothing peppermint foot baths can help the whole body feel cooler and more relaxed. Spider veins often fade but can be treated by laser about six months after you give birth. While the linea nigra will always disappear as the hormones in your body adjust post pregnancy.
Enhanced Immune System
Oddly, studies show that pregnant women are less likely to get colds and flu but nobody quite knows why. Immunity to viruses definitely improves during pregnancy but hit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care. If you’re through your first trimester as winter approaches you might want to think about a flu shot. It’s important to ensure you wash your hands regularly to avoid picking up viruses. Once your baby is born your immunity returns to normal and hers is low. Developing good habits about hygiene is a great investment in your new baby’s health.
The number one change that women comment on is their breasts. The nipples become erect and the areole get bigger and darker to help a baby locate the food source. Everything in the breast becomes bigger to aid milk production. You could actually put on a kilo of weight in each breast. So no wonder they are tender! Our maternity nurses recommend buying three good support bras with wide straps. One to wear in the day, one in the wash and one to wear at night, if necessary. Because being woken in the night with sore boobs isn’t fun. Breastfeeding isn’t linked to sagging breasts by the way – instead, a high BMI, history of smoking, age and being big-breasted before pregnancy all increase the risks of sagging.