There is nothing more life altering than the entry of another human being into the world. From the second these mini versions of their adult parents are born, life as said parents know it changes forever. Mostly for the better. Always for the most exhausting. And never for the boring. Still, other than the obvious changes that pregnancy brings to a woman’s body, the sheer ways it morphs and changes during the nine months of baby’s incubation is incredible. She will have a hard time recognizing herself some days, be inspired on other days, and still be surprised by how quickly she adjusts to the changes in her body as it continues to house and grow her future child.
So much changes for Mom-to-be physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Believe it or not, another way it changes it metabolically, or rather her metabolism. This is usually instant from the time she first finds out she is pregnant in the first trimester all the way through to the third trimester just before she meets her baby face to face. Things she once loved to eat now make her gag, or else she gets cravings for some pretty weird stuff. But in what other ways does a woman’s metabolism change?
Remember all those old wives tales that talk about how a woman will be hungry enough to eat a horse? Ok, so the pun is old and dated, the point is that sometimes she will have moments when her hunger will be so all encompassing she will be planning out breakfast, lunch and dinner in the morning and dreaming, yes dreaming, of how each morsel of said food of each course will taste like. Mmhh... She may be slightly embarrassed by this, as well, normally she is someone who had self-control over food, her portions and all else related to her culinary habits. Now, she just dreams about food and it's a top priority on her list. She needs to remember this is all hormonal, and her body’s way of feeding her and her baby to keep them both as healthy as possible.
Then there is the total opposite scenario of the previous situation of the voracious appetite. That is, the diminishing or under-active appetite of the newly pregnant woman. In this case, not just some foods but many foods may make her feel sick to her stomach. She is not able to eat big portions of most foods; however as long as she is eating sensibly most foods that give her and her baby a balanced nutrition, all will be well. What doctors usually suggest is that instead of eating three bigger meals with two snacks, she have six or so smaller meals which are really more like snacks. In doing this, she is still usually meeting hers and baby’s nutritional needs and it is easier on her metabolism as it adjusts to different food needs.
She loves certain foods whether in small or medium quantity. Maybe it is food that she has always eaten that was never a problem for her to digest, but now all of a sudden is causing her to experience major bloating or fluid retention. What areas are most affected? Usually it is the stomach, but often times a woman will notice fluid retention in her feet and hands. It is very important that this is monitored by her medical team to rule out more serious medical concerns such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or another type of physical conditions which could endanger her or her unborn baby. She may also have indigestion due to all the bloating. The best thing to do is to try and see if there are foods she can avoid that cause less bloating and drink lots of fluid which help ease some of the symptoms.
Another way metabolism changes is in how quickly or slowly she loses weight after she gives birth. Metabolism also plays a part in how she gains weight or not, during pregnancy. Some women put on weight VERY slowly during pregnancy, while others put on A LOT of weight at even the beginning of pregnancy. Unless they are taking in too many calories and eating more than is necessary (and her doctor or medical care practitioner will let her know about this), if she is gaining weight without eating a lot, doctors will need to run some tests to see what is going on. Likewise, if she is eating well and not gaining the appropriate amount of weight, tests will also be run. After she delivers her baby, she may also notice that she loses weight rather quickly or else more slowly.
Oh yes, how many of us have had certain food cravings during pregnancy that shocked the heck out of us? Maybe we were always gals who craved sugar who all of a sudden wanted only potato chips and salsa, or we just HAD to have our daily dose of cheese, or sweets, or fruits or whatever when before we could care less. Why is this happening all of a sudden? This is our metabolism at work again which affects what we crave, and how much we crave of it. It is all connected and signals are sent to the woman’s brain so she sometimes desires only that type of food and nothing else. It is quite incredible when we think about it. This is perfectly natural, and after she gives birth, her cravings usually return to her normal pre-pregnancy cravings.
What is hard for some women in pregnancy is when foods they once LOVED like coffee now makes them sick to their stomach to drink. For some women, even the smell makes them queasy or even worse, they actually start to gag. Others can’t stand things like chocolate and meat lovers may shy away from anything carnivorous and become temporary vegetarians or lighter meat eaters. Sometimes these cravings come back in the last part of the second trimester and in the third trimester, but not always. Sometimes the new food she loves stays as long as baby is taking up residence inside Mom. Again, as long as she is in good health and she has her doctor’s ok, there is no need to worry. Chances are her old food loves will come back after baby is born.
This is particularly challenging for women who had no problem eating big portions prior to pregnancy. It will no doubt feel weird and be worrisome. She will be concerned about baby’s future health, and worry if she is not ingesting enough calories. This is fine though. Just because she is eating for two, it does not mean she has to eat huge portions all the time. The important thing is that she is eating enough nutrients from all the four main groups and has enough energy to get through her day. She also needs to make sure she is getting enough rest and pacing herself with all her energy levels. All of these things will be what will give baby the best chance at healthy development in the womb.
There is also the opposite problem that some women have who need to start eating smaller portions due to gaining too much weight earlier in the pregnancy, or due to other pregnancy health issues. It may be very difficult as they are super hungry and have a hard time controlling their appetite, yet for health reasons they need to do so. As mentioned previously, things like gestational diabetes, hypertension, any kind of swelling or other health issues mainly with Mom, can usually be helped with medication, but also if Mom maintains as healthy a body weight as is possible. For some women it is difficult, but again perhaps eating more frequently will help these Moms-to-be minimize their portions which satisfies their hunger while still helping meet their baby’s nutritional needs.
Some women worry that they are gaining weight too slowly. This is also due to their metabolism and the way it is working during pregnancy. They of course want to be assured that their babies are developing in a healthy way, and that there are no problems in utero. Doctors will be investigating and running tests to make sure that the slow weight gain is not due to any health problems in her or in baby, but rather is just her body’s way of handling pregnancy. As long as all the tests are turning up normal, there is nothing for her to worry about. If there are issues, her medical team will be able to advise her on what steps could be taken next to ensure that she and her baby both continue to do fine.
There is also the issue of a woman sometimes gaining pregnancy weight too quickly. This could be happening for the very simple reason that she may be eating too much and simply needs to cut back on calories, or it could be due to other reasons which she does not know about. The metabolism will affect how calories are stored and burned. In the case of the latter scenario, her medical team will investigate what could be causing her to gain weight too fast. They will want to rule out that she does not have any serious health concerns that could be causing that. If so, a new health regime will have to be implemented and she will definitely have to be followed more closely. The metabolic changes that a woman’s body goes through in pregnancy can cause a lot of changes in the body and how it handles things.
Sometimes a woman who is pregnant will also develop what are called food intolerances. This is where she cannot handle digesting a food after eating it and she feels terrible afterwards. It may cause indigestion, heartburn, or all kinds of digestive woes to her while she is carrying her little one. Some women will develop this intolerance to cheese, milk or other dairy products. For other women, it may be other food products, like nuts, grains or some other product that actually can make her feel ill. Some speculate that it is really the baby who has these food intolerances and it is them throwing Mom off. Regardless, many women suffer a lot of discomfort if they have food intolerances. They may have to do a lot of investigating to pinpoint what is causing it, and with a doctor’s help they can find other replacement options.
Another thing that will be affected by her metabolism will be her sense of smell. Smells that she once loved may now repel her (i.e. coffee perking, chocolate, meat cooking) while other smells may actually remove nausea and make her feel good, (i.e. orange or lemon peels, the smell of freshly cut grass, strong spices such as cumin or curry.) These often help clear up nausea and may actually help her feel energized, hungry or bring back her appetite. It is incredible what the body is capable of, and what it can handle at various parts of the pregnancy process. Her sense of smell may remain one dimensional during pregnancy; in other words her aversions stay that way, or her old sense of smell and taste can return only after she gives birth.
This is a subject that many women are embarrassed to discuss, but it is a common one that occurs with metabolic changes in pregnancy. This change is constipation. Many women are VERY prone to constipation once their metabolism starts to undergo the complex process of carrying another human being. Some women start experiencing it right away, while others develop it later in the first trimester. If some of the food aversions are once rich in fiber, this can be particularly tricky, as of course fruits, vegetables and grains are the best things to keep the body regular. Having enough water per day is also important, and believe it or not some women cannot tolerate water either due to morning sickness and the metabolic changes taking place in their bodies.
A lot of women also develop constipation’s stark opposite: diarrhea. Who knows which one is worse as both are a pain in the “you know you what.” Again, metabolic changes in the woman’s digestive system may make her more susceptible to having a sensitive digestion system that does not tolerate food well that she once did. In this case, she may have to cut back on fiber rich foods that tend to un-constipate due to her system’s sensitive acceptance of certain foods and meals. Her doctor may recommend more pastas, rice, and heavier foods just to make sure that her system is balancing out the foods that aid digestion with foods that can help slow down digestion so her system balances out perfectly. It’s again about finding what works best for her and her body.