Society places an overwhelming value on physical appearance. People are expected to appear young with smooth and even skin, be thin, tall but not too tall, have proportionate features with nice eyes and full heads of hair, and a variety of other unrealistic expectations. This is simply not the reality of it. People come in all different shapes, sizes, skin colors, ages: and all of the features that stem from these variances differ. For people that are pregnant and even after pregnancy, the significant changes in their bodies may be difficult for them to handle due to this societal norm.
The truth is, not all of these changes are permanent and some of these once thought of as frustrating “problems,” are now becoming celebrated as individuals are honoring their bodies through progress in acceptance and diversity. The individual metamorphosis is also represented through media and marketing images using representation of unedited versions of individuals to allow this space of inclusion and to reduce unrealistic body ideals placed on society for too long.
Some of the more visible physical changes during pregnancy and postpartum include:
Weight Gain. After all, the individual did grow another life inside of them! The hormone progesterone, which is a hormone that is elevated during pregnancy, has been scientifically associated with weight gain during one’s pregnancy (1). As for weight fluctuation, after one delivers their baby, it will vary by the individual.
Larger/Fuller Breasts. An individual may also develop larger or fuller breasts, which is frequently accompanied by breast tenderness. Extra breast weight can also be painful due to increases in hormones like relaxing in the third trimester affecting the musculoskeletal system (2). Anything from how someone fits in clothing to their own body comfort may be affected by these quick changes to body proportions.
Stretch Marks/Skin Changes. Stretch marks may appear most often on the thighs, buttocks, breasts, and stomach area of a pregnant person. Darker patches of skin, acne and darker/browner nipples may appear during and post-pregnancy (3).
Changes in Hair and Nails. Pregnant individuals may grow longer and stronger nails during pregnancy. While postpartum individuals may experience hair loss/thinning and more brittle nails.
● Leg Swelling and Foot Changes. Due to the increased blood volume and pressure, pregnant people might deal with the flattening of their feet as well, which can result in aching feet or one’s shoe size being affected. For the swelling and foot aches to subside, it is important to regularly move the legs and feet and elevate when sitting to maintain blood circulation. It is also important for pregnant individuals to wear the most comfortable footwear for them (4).
Other physical changes that can occur in pregnant individuals include nausea, constipation, bloating, fatigue, as well as a heightened sense of smell or taste (3). Again, everyone’s body’s are completely unique and will react to bodily changes in a variety of ways. If you are concerned or are seeing unusual physical changes occuring, seek medical support to guide your decision making as some of these changes can be warning signs for more serious health conditions.
As society is moving forward with learning to embrace these physical changes, learning to love and accept yourself and reducing unrealistic body expectations is key. After all, this is a time for an individual, the development of their child, and the happiness that comes from that to grow!
For further support on these issues Beyond the Bump is a wonderful resource that helps pregnant through postpartum individuals in this transition. Chiropractic Support may be beneficial from Dr. Bronstein at Beacon Chiropractic, who is trained in the Webster Method and offers care for individuals in preconception, pregnancy and beyond. Additional resources to help with the physical changes experienced in pregnancy and postpartum may be found on the CCCN website.
Julianna La Coco, CCCN Intern
Marie Lof, Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, Sven Sandin S, Sonia de Assis, Wei Yu, and Elisabete Weiderpass, Dietary fat intake and gestational weight gain in relation to estradiol and progesterone plasma levels during pregnancy: a longitudinal study in Swedish women, BMC Women’s Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2685772/
Chalker H.M. Spinal compensation of pregnancy. Am Chiropr. 1993;15(3):23–26. [Google Scholar].
You’re Pregnant: Now What? - Body Changes and Discomforts, Office on Women’s Health,
4) Yolanda Smith, Foot Conditions and Pregnancy, News Medical,