What’s happening with you
Let’s face it – the changes that occur to your body during pregnancy are big! The pressure of your growing baby on your bladder may cause more frequent urination. Sleeping may require some position changes and strategic use of pillows as your growing baby and belly add new challenges to finding the coziest sleeping position. Most physicians recommend that you avoid laying flat on your back because the weight of the uterus presses on major arteries and veins that bring the blood supply to your pelvis and lower extremities.
Your uterus also puts the squeeze on your stomach, potentially causing heartburn. If this happens, stomach contents back up your esophagus, creating a burning sensation.
It shouldn’t surprise you if you begin to feel a wide array of aches and pains, including backaches, hemorrhoids, heartburn, constipation, varicose veins, leg cramps and softening of ligaments. This softening of ligaments is due to the hormones that help soften the bones to allow them to move as needed.
How you may feel
The change in your center of gravity will cause lower back discomfort/pain. The weight that you carry in front of your abdomen pulls on the lower spine. This puts a strain on your lower spine, and typically women throw back their shoulders to adjust for the lower back strain. This adds a new problem, upper back strain. Be careful about your posture, take care when lifting (or better yet, let someone else do the lifting), and wear shoes that are flat-soled and comfortable. For those with lots of back discomfort, there are special garments that help support a pregnant belly and reduce the stress on the spine. Talk to your clinician to see if this is something that might help you.
The increased progesterone production slows the activity of the bowels, so that food moves through them more slowly. Also, your uterus is pressing against your bowels, your physical activity level is likely less than it was, and iron supplements or prenatal vitamins with iron may all contribute to constipation. Be sure to increase your vegetable/fruit servings, add some fiber, and fluids, fluids, fluids – all will help to minimize these common bowel complaints. Occasionally, stool softeners may be used under medical direction. Do not use any laxative products while pregnant – unless specifically recommended by your physician. Some laxatives may stimulate your uterus along with your bowel – and this could be dangerous.
The enlarging uterus places pressure on the veins in the rectal area. Hemorrhoids may become a problem for some women. This is especially true when constipation is also an issue. The additional pressure on the rectal area veins when straining make the occurrence of hemorrhoids more frequent. Hemorrhoids are round, purplish, swollen veins around the anus and rectum that can feel itchy or painful.
Your uterus also puts the squeeze on your stomach, causing heartburn. When this happens, stomach contents back up your esophagus, creating a burning sensation. If this happens regularly, ask your physician about taking an acid reliever, like chewable calcium carbonate tablets (TUMS) – this also provides a little extra calcium.
A little short of breath
Your exercise tolerance may be less because the growing uterus makes it harder for your lungs to expand as fully as before pregnancy. This may cause you to feel a little short of breath – so slow down if you need to.
Lower extremity swelling
Swelling of your legs and feet is common during the last few months of pregnancy, as your uterus constricts the veins leading from the heart to the legs. Gravity pulls the blood down to the legs, but it has a hard time getting back up out of them. It’s important to promote blood flow in your extremities.
Use these tips to keep the swelling in your feet to a minimum:
- Avoid crossing your legs
- Avoid constrictive clothing, especially with tight elastic around ankles, knees or wrists
- Avoid standing for long periods
- Walk around after you’ve been sitting awhile – especially when on long drives. Avoid laying flat - the weight of your uterus presses against major veins and arteries that bring the blood supply to and from the pelvic area/lower extremities.
- Limit or slow the amount of physical activity you do, especially in hot weather
- Wear support hose if recommended
- Firm massage of the legs from toes upward to thighs
Your shoes may feel tight. Some of this is due to a little swelling in your feet. But since early pregnancy, your body has released a hormone called relaxin - it makes the ligaments stretchier – this is to help your pelvic bones prepare for birth. Relaxin doesn’t only effect your pelvic bones – your feet stretch out a little too. Be careful to wear shoes that support your foot adequately. Ill-fitting shoes may cause calluses, corns and blisters.
How baby is growing
During month six, the fetus’ skin is becoming less transparent as the fetus steadily gains fat and the integumentary system (skin, hair, and nails) continues to mature. The internal organs are continuing to develop and become stronger. The fetus can now hear and becomes startled at loud bangs. Many women begin to listen to classical music or favorite tunes. Singing, or just the sound of mother’s voice, is now music to the delicate ears of this growing baby.
The top of your uterus is now well past your navel, and you are most decidedly looking pregnant! The kicks, turns and twists are becoming stronger, and you might find it fun to just look at your bare belly and watch the activity. Flaunt it and enjoy – the baby is now 11-14 inches long and weighs about 2 pounds. You look beautiful.