Pregnancy is a beautiful and very stressful life experience emotionally and physically. The creation of life takes a toll on the body that manifests itself in unusual and sometimes unexpected ways. Understanding what is happening can alleviate concerns and help track whether the body is following typical biological changes. While symptoms and experiences vary, there are processes that the body will undergo to develop a precious baby.

After the egg is fertilized,

the ovaries increase production of progesterone which prepares the uterus to host the newly-fertilized egg. When the egg implants, there may be light vaginal bleeding which is called "spotting."

Around week 4

there is usually there is increased tenderness in the breasts. Due to an increase in hormones, emotions are often unpredictable. (Depression affects around 10-12 percent of pregnant women; if it persists for longer than two weeks then consulting a physician is recommended.) Around week 6, headaches, constipation and faintness are typical.

Around week 7

oil glands increase production and can create the "pregnancy glow" or, unfortunately, a break out of acne. Typically, 300 extra calories should be consumed daily to support healthy baby growth. Pregnancy cravings as well as distaste for certain foods typically occur. Around week 9, blood volume increases which can lead to dizziness, urination, and bulging veins in hands and feet.

Around week 10,

feeling bloated is common since the uterus is now the size of a grapefruit. Blurry vision around this time occurs as extra fluid retained by the body thickens the eye lens and cornea. The hormone "relaxin" loosens up ligaments and joints to prepare for birth and leads to clumsiness.

Around week 14

levels of hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin drop and increases appetite and usually an improvement in mood. Skin begins to darken and spot and if dark-haired, usually dark circles appear under eyes. Around week 16, kicks from the baby can be felt.

Around week 17

it is typical and healthy to gain about a pound a week. Around week 22, blood pressure drops and may cause dizziness. Hair becomes thicker and nails become stronger. In addition to pre-natal vitamins, iron supplements should be taken to deter anemia. The extra baby weight will usually causes musculo-skeletal pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Around week 29, breasts will begin to prepare for nursing by leaking a yellowish, thin fluid called "colostrum" which precedes breast milk and contains antibodies that fight infection and common diseases.

Around week 30

itchy skin is common in addition to stretch marks. While calming lotion may help, they are unfortunately just an annoyance with no real cure. Around week 31, the expanding uterus puts pressure on the sciatica nerve and causes hip and lower-back pain. Around week 33, Braxton Hicks contractions usually happen. These are "false alarms" for labor contractions. To ease pain, drink water and put feet up and symptoms usually subside within an hour. Around week 35, there will be pink or bloody vaginal discharge. The hormone oxytocin increases levels and causes milk glands to begin expanding and filling with colostrum.

Around week 39

mild cramps may occur. The typical range of time for labor is between 38 and 42 weeks. If the baby is not born before 42 weeks, consult a physician for induced labor.

The process of pregnancy is not easy, nor should one expect it to be. Taking care of a baby is a time-consuming role of responsibility that may occur when neither parent may feel at their most capable performance level. The stress is intense in proportion to the joy of taking care of an innocent baby.

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new."—Rajneesh

Biological explanations of changes during pregnancy can reduce stress and frustration. This article serves as a guide for those involved in the pregnancy progress. Credit to Source: the Parents website, article "Your Changing Body Week by Week" 2012

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