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Changes to Expect

Changes to Expect in Pregnancy

When you are pregnant you go through many physical and emotional changes. 

In this section, we have broken these changes down into four stages. Check the resources tab for links to related information on dealing with some of your concerns during pregnancy.

You may:

  • feel tired and need to rest. When you first feel this you may not even know you are pregnant
  • feel sick to your stomach and may vomit
  • have headaches or feel light headed
  • notice changes in your breasts. They may feel tender and tingle, get bigger and the dark part around the nipple, called the areola, gets darker
  • gain or loose weight at the beginning.
  • feel short of breath
  • feel you need to pee more. Even though the baby is very tiny, your little one is putting pressure on your bladder because he/she is low down in your pelvis.

Feeling sick

Feeling sick or experiencing morning sickness is natural. About 80% of women feel some degree of this during the first 7-12 weeks and 20% of women will feel this for longer than the 12 weeks.

If you need more information, talk to your midwife or doctor. You can also get help from Motherisk Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy or call the Helpline at 1-800-436-8477

Gaining weight

After 12 weeks, the recommended weight gain is from 1 to 3.5 lbs per week depending what your weight was when you became pregnant. 

If you have any questions about what you are eating or drinking, talk with your care provider or call 8-1-1. You can contact the Prenatal Dietitian here at BC Women's Hospital or you can speak to a Dietitian 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday. You can leave a message after hours or email a HealthLink Dietitian


Physical Changes

You may notice:

  • changes in your skin colour. For example, the skin around your eyes may darken (this is called cholasma), or you may develop a dark line (called linea nigra) that goes from your pelvis up to your belly button.
  • more breast changes, such as small bumps on the areola (the dark part around your nipples), or a liquid (called colostrums) may begin to leak from your breasts.
  • increased secretions from your vagina. They do not smell, and are a milky colour.
  • feeling movements like butterflies or bubbles. It's your baby!  
Emotional Changes 

Becoming a mom is a process and takes time. It takes until your baby is a year old for you to fully understand your new self and role as a mom. If you already have children, you will go through this process again.

It is normal:

  • to feel uncertain about the pregnancy and becoming a mom. 

  • to start being a mom.  

  • to have vivid dreams.  

  • to feel close to your partner sometimes and farther away other times. 


  • The changes you feel in the first 18 weeks are dramatic. You may feel very different but look the same. Many of these changes are chemical and hormonal.
  • The physical changes of pregnancy can cause a wide range of discomfort. What affects you may not be the same for your friend.
  • Get help with symptoms if you feel they are causing a great deal of discomfort and difficulty in your daily life.
  • You will start to feel closer to your baby on your own time table. There are many variations on what “normal” is.

Feeling uncertain

Feelings of uncertainty are often the first emotion of pregnancy. It is typical to feel introverted, more passive, experience mood swings and feel a change in how you look at yourself. Your changing hormones affect how you are feeling and the changes of pregnancy can cause stress.

  • remember a degree of uncertainty is normal. Give yourself some time to grow into the idea of becoming a mom.
  • tell your story about your pregnancy to a good listener.
  • talk about what you want and need during the pregnancy, what kind of care you want, and your ideas about motherhood.

Start being a mom

It is normal to begin to develop an image of your baby. What is she doing? What does she look like? Your image of your baby changes as your little one grows and you learn more about her.

  • Hear your baby’s heart beat. Your baby’s heart beat can usually be heard between 10 to 12 weeks but sometimes earlier. 
  • Feel your baby’s movements. For first-time moms this is around 18 to 19 weeks. For experienced moms you often recognize these movements earlier, around 16 or 17 weeks.

Vivid dreams

Dreaming is a way to test new ideas, find ways to mother and rework relationships. It is common for either you or your or partner to have vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams. It does not mean that the dream will happen.

Close to your partner

Sometimes you will feel you are in tune with your partner, other times you may feel you are on a very different journey and sometimes at odds with each other. These are typical feelings. The support you give each other influences how you respond to your new identity as a mom or dad and as you develop your new roles.

  • talk about who your role models are for moms and dads
  • what the pregnancy is like for both of you
  • it takes time to become used to the idea of being a mom or dad. Becoming moms and dads are different processes.
Physical Changes

You may notice:

  • you have more energy
  • you have a stuffed up nose
  • that your gums bleed More about bleeding gums
  • that your voice sounds different because of hormone changes
  • mild swelling of your hands, feet, ankles and face
  • lower back pain first, and then upper back pain later
  • pain in your side. As your baby grows and your womb (uterus) gets bigger, the ligaments that support your uterus may feel sore.
  • that your pelvis is beginning to feel loose when you are walking. Pregnancy hormones make your joints relax more. 
  • you have hard, dry stools (constipation)
  • leg cramps, especially at night
  • more of your baby’s movements

Emotional Changes

You may notice that you are thinking more about your body image. This is normal. Now that you are further along and your baby is growing, your body image is changing. Changing body image can be one of the main things that stresses many pregnant women.


  • increases in your weight are normal and important for you and your baby.
  • exercise can help you feel better about yourself. Go for a walk everyday.
  • you are not alone in feeling like this. Talk it over with your midwife or doctor. You can also make an appointment to see a Dietician (dial 8-1-1)

You may notice:

  • you focus more on becoming a mom. You may find yourself thinking more about who your role model are
  • You protect both you and your baby.
  • You want more information about concerns. You want to know what is safe and unsafe for you and your baby.

You may ask:

  • Who will support you as a mom and increase your confidence?
  • What does your family and culture expect from mothers?

Bleeding gums

This can happen because of changes in your hormones, or because you have plaque left on your teeth. Floss and brush everyday, and see your dentist for a checkup. Remember to tell her you are pregnant. 


Mild swelling is common and normal for 50-80% of women. You may have it in only one area or in all those areas mentioned. It does not necessarily mean you have any other condition. The swelling happens over time. If all of a sudden you have swelling or are concerned about it, talk to your midwife or doctor. 

Back Pain

This is because there is extra stress on your body. Many women experience back pain during the later stages of pregnancy. To alleviate the pain, it may help to:

  • keep good body posture when standing and sitting.
  • try heat or cold packs.
  • get a massage from your partner or a certified massage therapist who knows how to work with pregnant women. 
  • use a pillow under your upper leg for support when you are lying down on your side.
  • do exercises to stretch and strengthen your back. The Antepartum physiotherapy class at BC Women's can help with this. Call (604-875-2126) to make a time to see the physiotherapist.


If you have had this before you were pregnant, you usually have it more so during pregnancy. 

To alleviate constipation try to:

  • increase the fibre in your diet (add a bit of bran to your cereal) 
  • increase the amount of water you drink, at least 8-10 glasses a day.
  • Exercise. It's safe and helps with many discomforts.

Before you take any medicine, talk to your doctor or midwife. You can also make an appointment to see a Dietician (dial 8-1-1).

Physical Changes

Your baby is growing quickly, doubling his weight during these weeks.

You may: 

  • notice you feel more tired
  • notice it's harder to move
  • develop hemorrhoids
  • notice shooting pain in your vagina
  • have sudden pain in your groin
  • feel short of breath
  • develop heartburn. 65% of women feel some heartburn
  • develop varicose veins.

Your body is changing to prepare you for labour and birth.

You may notice:

  • your joints continue to feel more relaxed, especially your pelvis
  • you need to pee more often as the baby moves down farther into your pelvis. When this happens you can breath easier too.
  • your uterus gets hard and then soft. These are practice contractions, also called Braxton Hicks contractions.

You are getting closer to labour beginning.

You may notice:

  • soft stools
  • more energy
  • difficulty sleeping. This is because you have to pee more often, it's hard to move and turn, and you have a lot to think about.
  • a stuffy nose
  • stretch marks on your breasts and tummy. These are a reddish colour during pregnancy, and they may feel itchy.
  • your legs cramp or throb
  • upper and/or lower back pain. You may want to visit Antepartum Back Classes at BC Women's Physiotherapy. Call 604-875-2126 to book an appointment.

Emotional Changes

You may notice you:

  • focus more on the upcoming labour and birth
  • find it difficult to wait for the labour
  • feel more dependent on your partner and family
  • want to feel protected
  • are preparing to meet your baby by wanting to get to know her.

Getting ready for labour:

  • Talk to your partner about what you need in labour. Birth Preferences (PDF) can help you
  • learn about doula support
  • talk to your midwife or doctor about what is important for you during the labour and birth experience.
  • take a virtual tour of BC Women's

Waiting for labour

It's normal to find it difficult to wait for labour. There is a lot going on in the last weeks for both you and your baby. You are both getting ready for labour. 

You can use the wait time to enjoy and learn by:

  • spending time doing things that make you feel good and write them on a list. Put it on your fridge so you can remember to do them when you are taking care of yourself after your baby is born.
  • spending time with your partner. Give each other massages, go for walks. Go to places in your area where you want to take your baby.
  • Find out about resources in your community. This helps you get you ready and passes the time. You can also talk to moms you see in your area, see what programs your local health unit offers, or call the La Leche league (breastfeeding) to find out when they meet so you can go to a meeting before you have your baby.
  • Taking an Infant CPR/Safety course.

Get to know your baby by:

  • paying attention to her movements
  • massaging her
  • noticing how she responds to your touch and your voice.
  • noticing how she responds to music and other sounds. What music quiets her? Maybe this music will help after she is born too.

Your baby is growing quickly, doubling his weight, during these weeks.

You may: 

Medical Issues

There are many issues to deal with during a pregnancy - some are routine and some are more complicated. 

Learn more about issues like birth defects, depression in pregnancy, and diabetes in pregnancy. If you have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy, you may be at risk for heart disease. You may also need information about how a preexisting condition like HIV or substance use issues may affect your pregnancy. 

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria found in the environment and can be found in soil, surface water, vegetation, and a wide range of wild and domestic animals. Listeriosis is a potentially serious food-borne infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. Pregnant women, especially in the third trimester, are particularly susceptible to Listeria. Please read about prevention.

Please remember that this information is not intended to replace the care or advice of your own doctor. 


For pregnancy information we encourage you to visit the following websites:

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