Our bodies go through many changes during pregnancy and postpartum. A lot of changes are well known and frequently talked about like the symptoms of pregnancy, enlargement of breast, baby’s growth, etc. But, there are a lot of changes that happen in late pregnancy as your body gets ready to bring baby into the world. I wanted to highlight these five changes, because they frequently talked about but not usually explained.
Burst of Energy or “Nesting”. For the majority of your pregnancy, your belly will be high and baby will reside right under your ribs. This causes a lot of discomfort, especially towards late pregnancy. It may be difficult to breathe or it will be harder to find a good position to sleep in, so you’ll likely be unrested. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your belly will drop. This happens because baby is finding a good position to be in for his/her arrival into the world. All the discomforts of the baby sitting so high will be gone and you may experience a burst of energy. Most women take this time to complete the finishing touches for baby’s arrival into the world. This is more commonly known as “nesting”.
Cramping. These are going to start off feeling period-like. It’s like practice for your uterus in preparation for labor. The uterus has to find it’s rhythm, and rhythm is key for childbirth (for the uterus and the laboring mom). They will feel short and irregular. Once they move closer together (4-5 min apart) for about 1 min long, you are more likely to be in active labor. During these irregular contractions, your cervix will start to dilate (about 1-2 cm). You also might experience some loose stool, because the contracting of the uterus causes contracting of the intestine. It’s important to remember that all contractions are important! If these cramps are extremely intense or if you have any concerns about them, contact your healthcare provider.
Hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum and anus. They are very common in late pregnancy because as the uterus grows it puts pressure on those veins. They can also be caused by straining from constipation or by standing for too long. It doesn’t cause harm to your health or your baby’s health, and will go away after birth. To help prevent hemorrhoids, you should eat fibrous foods, drink lots of water, and try not to stand for long periods of time. These will heal in time, but you can soak the area in warm water every day or apply ice packs to the area to help relieve pain and swelling.
Preparation for Breastfeeding. Other than the growth in size and weight, your breasts are preparing in other ways for baby’s arrival. Your nipples may enlarge, and your areola may darken. Baby’s eyesight will not be fully developed and the dark areola will help baby to find the nipple. During late pregnancy your milk ducts will have already produced colostrum, so you may experience some leaking. The colostrum is really rich with antioxidants and is what your baby will feed on for the first couple days of life. Nipple pads are adhesive and some are reusable. They attach to the bra or the shirt and help soak up any milk, or colostrum, that may have leaked.
Tiredness. Fatigue is a common symptom in early pregnancy, and it may return during late pregnancy. It could be caused by all the extra weight you are carrying around, or you could be having trouble sleeping. Baby is not going to have much room to move around in the uterus at this point. You may feel a leg or arm in the ribs or kidney, which can be very uncomfortable. You will have to urinate more frequently, and it could be hard to get back to sleep after getting up every few hours to urinate. Ways to cope with extra tiredness would be to allow extra time to rest or adjust your schedule so you have more time to relax or nap.