Your Body and Motherhood [I Am Woman Series]

A beautiful and relaxed ethnic mother is snuggling her newborn and affectionately holding her in the hospital after delivery. Skin to skin bonding concept.

The female body is truly an incredible thing and it’s no secret that it changes greatly during and after motherhood. However, many people underestimate the true magnitude of these changes and how they help us support and raise our children. This month, in honor of I Am Woman: A Celebration of Womanhood, we are taking a look at the powerful ways our bodies adapt and change during motherhood to make us remarkable caregivers.

Your Body During Pregnancy

While there are obvious changes that take place during pregnancy, such as growing a bump, swollen feet, and ankles, and gaining body weight, there are numerous changes that take place that we can’t even see. For starters, let’s take a look at just how many parts and systems within our bodies change during pregnancy:

  • Endocrine System
  • Abdomen
  • Brain
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Breasts
  • Respiratory System
  • Body Temperature
  • Integumentary System: Hair, Skin, and Nails
  • Urinary System
  • Legs and Feet
  • Musculoskeletal System

From the point of conception to delivery, all of these parts and systems adapt to assist fetal development and help prepare the body for labor.

The systems that go through the most significant changes are the skeletal system and cardiovascular system. 

During pregnancy, a realignment of the spinal curvatures takes place, adjusting your posture and loosening the ligaments that hold your pelvic bones together to prepare for childbirth. Additionally, your body’s blood volume and amount of blood vessels increase, elevating your resting heart rate and increasing cardiovascular output. 

One of the most interesting changes that takes place during motherhood is the changing of brain size. During pregnancy, female brains have been shown to slightly shrink in size, and then increase in size after delivery. 

Your Body During Childbirth

In addition to all the impressive changes that occur in your body during pregnancy, some extreme changes happen exclusively during labor. 

First, your brain will send a signal to your body to prepare it for labor. Your hormones will then fluctuate, causing a wide range of emotional responses during and after labor. The muscular ring between your uterus and vagina will also begin to soften, dislodging the mucous plug. Active labor typically lasts 4-8 hours and is identified by the cervix dilating from 6 cm to 10 cm.

After delivering a child, the uterus will keep contracting to separate the placenta from the uterine wall and help stop the bleeding where it detached. Within 30 minutes your placenta will exit your body in a process called the afterbirth. 

Your Body After Pregnancy

Of course, after giving birth, your body will go through some significant changes again showing its incredible ability to heal itself. The biggest change seen during this period of healing is in your body’s hormones. They will go from the highest levels ever experienced during pregnancy and birth to some of the lowest levels, causing mood swings and irritability. 

After labor, your body will also begin to naturally heal your vagina and uterus over the course of many weeks. Your body will expel bloody discharge containing mucus and blood from where the placenta was attached to the uterus, during the healing process.

Your Body and Breastfeeding

Right after giving birth, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and prolactin, the hormone that helps you make breastmilk will begin to flood your system, making your breasts even larger than were during pregnancy. This will allow you to breastfeed your child and provide them with vital nutrients. However, did you know that breastfeeding can also help change your body for the better?

Breastfeeding has many health benefits to aid your health over time including:

  • A reduced risk of breast cancer
  • An improved glucose metabolism
  • A reduced risk of high blood pressure and heart attack
  • An increase in oxytocin which can promote healing
  • A lowered risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes

All of these astonishing changes that take place from conception to birth, to motherhood, are just one of the many reasons why we are celebrating the female body with our I Am Woman: A Celebration of Womanhood.

I Am Woman: A Celebration of Womanhood

In March 1992, Dr. Karen Addis and her husband Dr. Walt Patton opened Copperstate OB/GYN, a premier women’s healthcare facility focused on providing exceptional care to women of all ages, and through every stage of motherhood. This year we are celebrating 30 years of female empowerment with I Am Woman: A Celebration of Womanhood. In addition to our monthly blog posts, we’ll be hosting Facebook Live sessions and giveaways each month in our Facebook group, Tucson Women: Healthy Living, that will celebrate womanhood and test followers’ knowledge! 

Are you looking for an OB/Gyn you can trust to support you through every stage of motherhood in the Tucson area? Let us support you in achieving true health and wellness. Call (520) 721-8605 to book your appointment today.