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Physiological Changes During Pregnancy - OBGYN

Jul 13, 2023

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Reproductive System

Respiratory System 

Gastrointestinal System

Urinary System

Endocrine System

Musculoskeletal System

Integumentary System( skin)

physiological changes during pregnancy

A woman's body goes through a lot of physiological changes during pregnancy in order to support the growth and development of the fetus.

These alterations, which can affect many bodily systems, are crucial for the mother's and the baby's well-being. Some of the physiological changes that take place during pregnancy are listed below.


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Reproductive System

Pregnancy causes considerable physiological changes in the reproductive system that support the fetus's growth and development. These modifications, which are predominantly brought on by hormone changes, are essential to maintaining pregnancy. Here are the main alterations to the reproductive system that take place during pregnancy:

  • Uterus
    • Increased size and weight- The uterus expands to accommodate the growing fetus. By the end of pregnancy, it can be 20 times larger than its pre-pregnancy size.
    • Hypertrophy and hyperplasia- The muscular wall of the uterus undergoes hypertrophy which is increased cell size and hyperplasia which is increased cell number to support the growing fetus.
    • Braxton hicks contractions- These are irregular, painless contractions that can occur throughout the pregnancy but become more noticeable in the later stages. They are considered a normal part of pregnancy preparation.
  • Cervix
    • Softening- As pregnancy progresses the cervix softens and becomes more pliable. This prepares the cervix for dilation and effacement during labor and delivery.
  • Vagina
    • Increased Blood Flow- the vaginal walls receive increased blood supply, leading to a bluish tint known as the Chadwicks sign.
    • Increased secretions- hormonal changes can cause increased vaginal secretions known as leukorrhea, which help to prevent infections and maintain a healthy vagina.
  • Breasts
    • The breast undergoes several physiological changes in preparation for breastfeeding. Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone stimulate the growth of mammary glands, ducts, and fatty tissue in the breasts. 
    • This leads to breast enlargement and increased sensitivity. The nipples may become darker and small bumps called Montomery tubercles may appear on the areoles. These changes help prepare the breasts for milk production and nursing after childbirth.

Also Read : Infections in Pregnancy

Vaginal Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Respiratory System 

During pregnancy, the respiratory system undergoes several physiological changes to meet the increased demand for oxygen of the developing fetus and support the mother's body. Here are the major respiratory changes that occur during pregnancy:

  • Increased oxygen consumption.
  • Lung capacity may decrease slightly due to upward displacement of the diaphragm by the expanding uterus.

Gastrointestinal System

  • Hormonal changes can affect digestion, leading to slower movements of food through the digestive tract, which can cause constipation.
  • Increased levels of progesterone can relax the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to heartburn and acid reflux.

Urinary System

  • The kidneys undergo increased filtration to eliminate waste products from both mother and the fetus.
  • Hormonal changes affect the bladder leading to increased urinary frequency.

Endocrine System

  • Hormone production increases significantly during pregnancy, especially human chorionic gonadotropin, progesterone, and estrogen.
  • The placenta plays a crucial role in hormone production, supporting the pregnancy and regulating various physiological processes.

Musculoskeletal System

  • Hormone changes such as increased levels of relaxin, loosen the ligaments and joints to prepare for childbirth.
  • The center of gravity shifts as the uterus expands which may lead to changes in posture and balance.

Also Read :

Anemia in Pregnancy

Abdominal Trauma in Pregnancy

Placenta Accreta: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Integumentary System( skin)

  • Hyperpigmentation- Increased levels of hormones particularly estrogen and progesterone can cause hyperpigmentation of the skin. This may lead to the following changes:
    • Cholasma/ melasma- Dark patches, often seen on the face, especially cheeks, forehead, and upper lip. These patches may fade or disappear after pregnancy.
    • Linea Nigra- A dark line that forms vertically in the midline of the abdomen, extending from the navel to the pubic areas.
    • Aerolas darkening- The areolas surrounding the nipples may become darker and larger.
  • Stretch Marks- As the skin stretches to accommodate the growing abdomen, breasts, and hips stretch marks may develop. These are the reddish or purplish streaks that eventually fade to a lighter color.
  • Vascular Changes:
    • Spider veins- Dilated blood vessels appearing as small branching red or purple lines on the skin particularly on the legs.
    • Varicose veins- Enlarged twisted veins that often occur in the legs due to increased pressure on the lower body. They can cause discomfort or pain.
  • Nail Changes- Changes in nails are also common during pregnancy. Some possible changes include:
    • Brittle nails- Nails may become more brittle and prone to breakage.
    • Changes in nail texture- Nails may become softer or harder than usual.
    • Increased nail growth- Nails may grow faster during pregnancy.

Also Read:

Uterus Didelphys(Double Uterus): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Amblyopia: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Genital Warts: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

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