In the course of growing an entire human being, women's bodies undergo a slew of unbelievable changes. Often, we (meaning pregnant ladies, and the people who write about them) get hung up on the negative symptoms and with good reason -- it's hard to feel particularly great about unrelenting nausea, excruciating heartburn and fatigue so intense you could fall asleep at the grocery store, on a sidewalk, under your desk, in a plate of eggs ....
But women's bodies do incredibly mind-blowing things in service of their growing babies, and we think that deserves a bit of celebration. Of course, no two pregnancies are the same. One woman's glow is another mom's acne. But here, nonetheless, are seven of the amazing things that can happen to women's bodies during pregnancy.
Well done, moms-to-be!
1. Your Blood Volume Increases
During pregnancy, the volume of blood in a woman's body increases by a whopping 50 percent in order to help support the uterus. Accordingly, the amount of blood pumped by the heart increases as well. As the Merck Manual explains, by the end of pregnancy, a woman's uterus receives one-fifth of her pre-pregnancy blood supply.
2. You Actually Glow
If you find yourself looking all dewey and glow-y during your pregnancy, it's not just because you're brimming with I'm-about-to-become-a-mom sentiment; there's also a physiological basis for it. The aforementioned increase in circulation that occurs during pregnancy causes many women's faces to appear brighter, or flushed. And, as the American Pregnancy Association reports, as women's bodies produce more hormones, their oil glands can go into overdrive, resulting in that famed pregnancy glow.
3. You Grow An Entire Organ
During pregnancy, women's bodies grow a whole new organ, i.e., the placenta -- a structure that develops in the uterus and provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby (while also playing a key role in waste removal). The organ typically grows onto the upper part of the uterus and is linked to your baby via the umbilical cord. After your baby's born and the placenta's job is done, it is simply expelled through the birth canal (although some women, including a growing number of celebs, then ingest it for its reputed health benefits -- a practice known as "placentophagia").
4. You Loosen Up
More specifically, as you move through your pregnancy, hormones (especially the aptly named "relaxin") help soften the ligaments that hold your bones together and the pelvic bones themselves begin moving to accommodate your baby's birth. Sometimes, this can cause a bit of pain and discomfort (if it's severe enough, you should see your doctor), although as What To Expect reports, once your baby is born, your joints will firm up again.
5. You Stop Shedding
Do you have the thickest, most amazing head of hair, like, ever? During pregnancy you stop shedding hair at it's normal rate. As Baby Center explains, most of the time between 85 and 95 percent of the hair on your head is growing, while the rest is in a "resting" stage, before it falls out. But during pregnancy, higher estrogen levels extend that growth phase, meaning you lose less hair and may suddenly find yourself with a gloriously thick ponytail. (Although, as we previously reported, after your baby's born, that "extra" hair will fall out.)
6. You Breathe Differently
It's not uncommon for pregnant women to feel short of breath, particularly later in their pregnancy when the uterus grows and begins to press on the diaphragm. But breathing also changes because of the high levels of the hormone progesterone in your body signal your brain to lower the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, Merck explains -- yet another amazing example of all the things your body does to support and accommodate a growing baby.
7. You Become Particularly Orgasmic
As Babble explains, the increased blood flow to a woman's genitals -- plus the general surge in any number of hormones that influence desire -- can make many pregnant women feel libidinous. And those changes can also increase sensitivity, allowing many women to orgasm more easily. But as with all things related to sexuality, this is totally individual -- some women want nothing to do with sex while they're pregnant.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that the volume of a woman's blood doubles throughout her pregnancy. It increases by up to 50 percent.
Expecting? See what your baby is doing this week by clicking through the slideshow below!