Health Library

Categories > Pregnancy and Childbirth > Pregnancy: What to expect

More than you expected: Body changes during pregnancy

It’s time for moms around America to come clean about their secret pact. You know, the one that forbids them from divulging the whole truth about pregnancy to women who haven’t had kids. If you’re expecting for the first time, you probably know what we mean. Sure, you were prepared for some discomfort—a little nausea, a mild backache maybe. But what’s that dark line that starts at your belly button and stops just above your pubic bone? For the answer to that question—and to find out about some other body changes—read on.

Skin “signs”

  • The linea nigra, literally “black line,” is the term used to describe the dark line that appears down the center of your lower abdomen. Believe it or not, it was there even before you were pregnant. But because the line was white (linea alba) back then, you probably never noticed it. The line will probably fade somewhat after delivery.
  • Blotches (dark or white, depending on your skin color) that may appear on your face or neck are known as chloasma, or the mask of pregnancy. Take care to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher whenever you’re outdoors because sun exposure can worsen the condition. Chloasma, which disappears soon after delivery, also may be a sign of folic-acid deficiency.
  • Stretch marks, which occur in 90 percent of pregnant women, usually appear as reddish or pink lines around the abdomen, upper thighs and breasts. They develop as the skin stretches to make room for your expanding body. Is there anything you can do to prevent the striations? Try eating healthfully and keeping weight gain steady and moderate. As for expensive creams and lotions, save your money. And if it’s any consolation, remember that the lines will fade to silvery streaks after delivery.
  • Don’t be surprised if your genital area darkens and becomes engorged and tender to the touch. The darkening will not go away completely after delivery, but the swelling will.

Breast developments

  • Developing milk glands cause breasts to swell. And the increased flow of blood plumps up veins so that your chest resembles a sort of blue road map. If you plan to breastfeed, get used to the look! For maximum comfort, wear a well-fitting support bra. Some women find it helpful to sleep with their bras on.
  • Around the end of the third month, expect your areolas to darken. Brown spots, which will fade a little after the birth, may also appear outside the areola.
  • Don’t be alarmed if you notice a yellowish, watery discharge from your nipples after a few months of pregnancy. It’s colostrum, the first food your baby will receive if you choose to breastfeed.

Dental difficulties

The extra blood, fluid and hormones flowing through your system overload your capillaries, the tiniest blood vessels. One of the results? Bleeding gums. This condition reaches a peak in the eighth month. To prevent dental problems, brush and floss regularly. See your dentist at least once during your pregnancy, preferably early on, and avoid X-rays. (If you suspect a cavity, take care of it right away. Badly decayed teeth could lead to widespread infection—a danger to you and your growing fetus.)