Are You Pregnant or in a Sci-Fi Movie? Know Why Your Body Changes.
What are shadows made of? Why is the sky blue? How do fish breathe under water? Parents, and moms in particular, field an average of nearly 300 questions a day from their offspring, according to a study by British online retailer Littlewoods. Four-year-old girls are the most curious, asking an astonishing 390 questions a day.
If you’re exhausted just thinking about those numbers, you’re probably already a parent (and trying to read this amidst a barrage of questions) or you’re pregnant and everything makes you tired. Either way, we bet you’ve got some questions of your own.
We all know the female body undergoes a remarkable transformation as it prepares for childbirth. Symptoms such as morning sickness, swollen ankles and bizarre cravings are so well known that they’re used to identify every pregnant character in TV and movies.
Your questions, then, probably aren’t about what happens, but why?
Before we turn to science for answers, remember that no two women are alike and every pregnancy is unique. If you have unusual symptoms or concerning body changes, be sure to check with your doctor.
Question: Why do I feel like an alien has invaded my body?
Science Says: Because it has.
As if it’s not extraterrestrial enough to have an entirely new person developing inside you, did you know that your body has to grow a whole new organ to support it? The placenta is the only organ in the human body created by the body for an independent, time-specific task. It begins to form when the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, about a week after conception, and is completely expelled after delivery. It even secretes hormones like other endocrine organs.
Barring any complications, and because pregnancy isn’t a “sickness,” with a normal vaginal delivery you should feel much more like yourself immediately after having your baby. Your uterus, however, needs about six to eight weeks to return to its normal size, and your body can take a year or longer to fully recuperate.
Question: Are my feet seriously getting bigger and am I going to have to buy all new shoes?
Science Says: Yes, and probably yes.
Most women develop flat feet during pregnancy, with the largest changes in foot size and shape (up to a size and a half bigger) occurring after the birth of their first child. Researchers say these changes are likely permanent.
Here’s why feet get bigger:
- The pregnancy hormone relaxin loosens the cartilage holding bones together so your baby’s head and shoulders can fit through your pelvis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just target the pelvic area, but affects the entire body, including the more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments and 28 bones in each foot.
- The extra weight you’re carrying while feet are in this pliable condition may contribute to falling arches.
- Your feet may also be swollen from fluid retention, but this will normally go away after delivery.
It’s important to wear supportive shoes that fit well and are comfortable so you don’t develop chronic foot conditions, such as bunions or plantar fasciitis. However, you’ll probably want to wait until any swelling goes down before you invest in a whole new shoe wardrobe.
Question: Is my nose getting bigger, too?
Science Says: Sort of, but not because you’re pregnant.
Noses are made from hyaline cartilage, the weakest of the three types of cartilage. Over time, gravity pulls the tip of your nose downward, causing it to droop if not literally grow. Same thing happens to outer ears, which are made of elastic cartilage.
Question: Is there a reason for morning sickness and is something wrong if mine happens at night?
Science Says: Yes. And no.
Morning sickness — an aversion to certain foods and strong smells characterized by nausea and vomiting — affects approximately two-thirds of women in the first trimester of pregnancy. Studies suggest it is a primitive mechanism for protecting the embryo during the time when it’s most susceptible to potential bacteria in foods and chemicals that could cause it to become unviable.
Researchers found the greatest food aversions are to meats, poultry, fish and eggs — foods that tend to show up in cases of food poisoning and would have been harder to keep safely refrigerated in the past. While not having morning sickness is no indication of a problem, studies consistently found that women who experience it are less likely to miscarry.
And there’s no need to worry if yours happens at night or any other time of day. It’s unclear why it was named morning sickness, although many women do feel most nauseated upon awakening. A few saltine crackers should do the trick, and now that you know morning sickness is simply your body’s way of protecting your baby, they might be easier to swallow.
For more pregnancy tips, check out Pregnancy 411
Summer Hughes BSN, RNC-Inpatient OB, Director of Women’s Services at Medical City Alliance
Summer Hughes is happily married to her wonderful husband Russell and a mother of 2 boys Dawson (17) and Gavin (7). She’s been a nurse for nine years in Women’s Services. In her free time, she loves scuba diving, reading, spending time with family and traveling.