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Body changes during pregnancy

by Randy Shannon

by Jenna Lemberger, DTP

Many of us are familiar with body changes during pregnancy. We have all seen women who hold their hands on their back, “waddle” as they walk, and have a difficult time getting in and out of bed or a chair due to pain. These changes are common, but not normal. 

Normal body changes during pregnancy include: 

  • wider hips, ribs
  • increased flexibility body wide due to hormonal changes
  • tailbone sits out farther
  • increased rounding of the upper back
  • mild increase in arching of the low back
  • increased depth of breathing although no increase in amount of breaths per minute
  • increased blood volume; heart rate, blood flow to the skin
  • center of balance shifts forward
  • wider stance to maintain balance
  • slower walking speed
  • smaller rotation of the hips during walking
  • slight decrease in blood pressure, lowest at 28 weeks gestation; returning to normal by 36 weeks gestation
  • increased venous pressure in legs, lower body, which can cause can cause varicose veins, swelling, hemorrhoids 
  • forward tilt of pelvis, which can cause nerve irritation in low back, down the legs

Some of the abnormal changes that can occur during pregnancy (specific to musculoskeletal systems) include:

  • Separation of abdominal muscles (known as Diastasis rectus abdominus) that looks like a hernia near belly button 
  • Joints popping out of/ back into place
  • Pelvic pain similar to things “catching” in low back/ hip area
  • Urine “leaking” 
  • Numbness, tingling in legs, arms
  • Dizziness due to hormones affecting inner ear function
  • Any sustained back or joint pains
  • Walking different than before pregnancy
  • Significant Weakness or progressive weakness

If you experience any of the abnormal changes, speak to your OB/CNM or call Nurse Direct at (800)-362-9900. If you feel it is a medical emergency, please seek medical attention right away. 

If you feel you or someone you know would benefit from physical therapy during pregnancy or in the postpartum period, contact your OB-GYN or call Mercy Oakwood Rehabilitation Services for more information at (920) 236-1850.