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From bigger breasts to ‘cankles', there is no doubt you'll see some changes in your body during pregnancy. Discover what to expect and how to deal with these changes
It's normal for you to put on weight in pregnancy. After all, you're growing a whole new human! ‘Your midwife will weigh and measure you at your first appointment (called the booking-in visit), to calculate your body mass index (BMI), so that screening tests can be done correctly,' says Denyse Kirkby, author of My Mini Midwife. ‘Weight gain is due to the increase in blood plasma volume, the placenta, the baby, the amniotic fluid and the fat laid down to provide energy when breastfeeding.' Most women put on up to 2 stone during pregnancy.
Probably one of the first symptoms you'll spot in pregnancy is an increasing (and often tender) bust. This is caused by hormonal changes, which can happen from as early as seven or eight weeks. ‘You may find a wireless bra more comfortable from around 20 weeks of pregnancy,' says Kirkby.
Around 80% of women will get stretchmarks during pregnancy, to varying degrees. They happen when the skin stretches quickly, tearing layers under the epidermis and then scarring. ‘Although not everyone will get stretchmarks, if you're predisposed to them, you can't prevent them,' says Kirkby. ‘However, you may be able to reduce the length of time you have them by keeping well hydrated and eating food rich in healthy fats. Although they may look red at first, within the first year after pregnancy they will shrink, thin and change to a silvery colour.'
If fluid retention has caused your calves and ankles to swell and form ‘cankles', you're not alone. According to the NHS, fluid retention occurs because your body holds more water than usual during pregnancy. ‘Your baby also puts pressure on the veins carrying fluid up your legs, preventing some of it from circulating into the upper part of your body,' says Kirkby. To ease swelling, try to move about regularly, don't cross your legs, and put your feet up several times a day. ‘Fluid retention can also be a sign of pre-eclampsia – a dangerous pregnancy condition linked to high blood pressure – so if you feel unwell or have other unusual symptoms, speak to your midwife or maternity unit urgently,' adds Kirkby.
Bumps can come in varying shapes and sizes. ‘The way a baby is positioned will change the shape of a bump. For example, a baby lying with its back against the mum's back can give her a dip under her belly button,' says Kirkby. Your bump will be measured at each antenatal check, but it's worth remembering that a big or small bump rarely correlates to the size of your baby. If your bump is very small or very big, you'll be sent for a scan to check your baby's health.
While some women notice that their skin gets better during pregnancy, the famous pregnancy ‘glow' doesn't happen to everyone. ‘It's caused by hormones and the extra blood in your body, but it can have the opposite effect and lead to spots or acne,' says Kirkby. ‘If this is the case, your skin will probably return to normal after your baby is born. If you're already on antibiotics for problem skin, this will need to be changed to a topical version during your pregnancy.' Speak to your doctor about safe treatments.
By Hannah Fox