Pregnancy is the most magical period in a woman’s life

No other organism grows up so fast and in such a complex way as a foetus. So, by learning a few things about what happens in the woman’s body during pregnancy, we can easily understand the changes she sees and feels.

Author
Antonios Kakoulakis,
Obstetrician – Gynaecologist, Surgeon, MITERA Scientific Collaborator

Practically, pregnancy is divided in three terms and during each term some physiological changes occur in the mother’s and the child’s body.

1st Term

This is a period of adaptation for the body and the organism, so as to respond to the huge demands of pregnancy.
In the early stages of pregnancy, the foetus reaches a very critical growing phase: it is the Organogenesis period during which all the principal organs are formed.

The hormonal activity is affected in many ways: mood changes, increased or reduced libido. During these months, the mother gains one to two kilos, if she doesn’t suffer from nausea. At this stage, the foetus weighs about 50 grams, while the rest of the weight gained corresponds to the placenta, amniotic fluid, uterus, growing breasts and increased quantity of blood.

2nd Term

Pregnancy is now established and begins to show externally as the belly “gets rounder”. The uterus expands above the pelvis and the waist line starts to disappear. As the baby grows, you may feel pain and disturbances in the chest and under the ribs as they move, stomach burning because of the pression. You may also feel pain in the abdomen, as the uterine muscles stretch. The foetus gets taller and stronger and starts moving.
During this term, the future mother’s weight gains about 6 kilos: the baby weighs 1 kilo and the rest correspond to the pear shaped pregnant figure as well as the uterus, breasts and rising blood quantity.

3rd Term

This is the last term of pregnancy and the baby’s development is completed. It is now so big that the doctor or the midwife can determine its position by palpation. The baby now starts getting ready for labour, adapts to the lack of space in the uterus and constantly gains weight. It is perfectly shaped; the organs are mature and keep developing until the end of the pregnancy.

During this period the mother gains about 5 kilos and approximately 3 of them are for the baby. The weight centre of the mother’s body changes and she feels heavy and tired and has difficulty in finding a comfortable resting position. The pelvis opens and possibly hurts, particularly at the rear, while the uterus gets hard and contracts preparing for labour pains.
Briefly, we should mention that during pregnancy weight should be gained gradually, 1 kilo/month on average. Many women gain more weight at the end of the pregnancy, whereas others in the early stages. There is no stereotype because every pregnant woman has a personal lifestyle that affects the distribution of weight during these forty weeks. This weight gain ranges from 20 to24% in total and it is unequally distributed in time, i.e. 3% during the first term, 10% during the second term and 10% the third term. A reasonable weight gain should not exceed 9-12 kilos. During the last term, weighing and laboratory tests should be carried out every two weeks in order to detect eventual albuminuria, increased uric acid and transaminases and in order to check blood pressure to prevent the risk of pre-eclampsia.

If a pregnant woman gains more than half a kilo per week, if her legs are swollen, if she has albuminuria or suffers from frequent headaches, she should consult a doctor immediately.

It is interesting to point out that at the time of birth the baby weighs only 3-3,5 kilos, whereas the mother gains approximately four times this weight.

Where are the rest ¾ of the kilos gained by the mother?

Τhe answer lies in some absolutely normal and inevitable changes in the future mother’s organism concerning various tissues.
Uterine walls are reinforced in order to be able to hold the additional weight of the foetus and that’s why they become thicker and more resistant.
A new tissue called placenta is created.
Amniotic fluid is produced.
Breasts swell and start preparing for the milk production. A normal breast perimeter of 80cm can reach 90cm during pregnancy. This extra weight combined with the stretching of the uterus may reach 1,000-1,350 gr.
Great fat storage
During pregnancy a very important factor that we should take into consideration is that fat is easily stored in the body. This mechanism provides the mother’s body with a sufficient storage of fat, which will be passed to the baby through breastfeeding during the first months. In prehistoric ages, this mechanism allowed the mother to survive during the first days after labour, before she regained her strength to search for food. So, this mechanism contributes significantly to the survival of the human species.
The circulatory system undergoes changes during pregnancy in order to ensure the transfer of sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutritive agents from the mother to the foetus for the latter’s development.

FAQ

What is the placenta?
The placenta is the organ through which the foetus is fed. It has two components, the fetal part (Chorion Frondosum), and the maternal part (Decidua Basailis). The placenta function is about the transfer of nutritive agents and oxygen from the mother to the foetus through the umbilical vessels (mass and gas exchange) and the production of various hormones, which are necessary for the normal progress of the pregnancy.

What is the umbilical cord?
The umbilical cord connects the placenta to the foetus. It contains three vessels, one vein and two arteries, through which uteroplacental circulation and foetal feeding are carried out.

What is the amniotic fluid?
It is the fluid surrounding and cushioning the foetus throughout pregnancy and until labour. Its production starts at the 3rd – 4th week of pregnancy. It is useful for the protection and feeding of the foetus and the progress of the labour as well. In early stages of pregnancy, it is possible to examine the amniotic fluid (amniocentesis) for various pathologies (e.g. chromosome lesions) of the foetus. Usually, it is recommended to women older than 35 years old.

What are the diseases that might cause problems during pregnancy?
Cardiopathy, anaemia, tuberculosis, diseases in the urinary (nephritis) and the digestive system (hepatopathy), diabetes mellitus and other endocrine gland disorders (Thyroid, pituitary, adrenal glands).

What are the diseases of the mother that might cause problems to the foetus?
Measles, rubella, parotitis, hepatitis, toxoplasmosis, mycoplasmosis, listeriosis, syphilis, herpes, blennorrhoea, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, toxinaemia, thyropathy etc.

The physical and emotional changes during pregnancy are both amazing and fast, as new life is created and develops in the woman's body.

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