PERREAULT Magazine October 2014 - Page 59

Some examples of physiologic changes:

Cardiovascular: The mother’s blood volume increases by 40% to deliver more oxygen and nutrients and remove carbon dioxide and waste products. As the volume of the blood increases so does the cardiac output and her heart rate also goes up by about 15 beats per minute.

The fetus also has its own blood circulation which, along with the amniotic fluid and the fetus’ increasing weight, adds to the mother’s weight. The added pressure on the pelvic blood vessels sometimes causes varicose veins and hemorrhoid issues.

Respiratory: The volume of the breath increases by 40% as lengthening ligaments allow the rib cage to expand. At the same time the expiratory reserve volume decreases by 15% (due to the growing baby pushing up on the lungs).

As the fetus grows and the amount of blood increases in the mother’s body shifts in estrogen and progesterone levels can create congestion of the mucous membranes, and cause a stuffy nose and even snoring. The trapped moisture in the nasal cavities creates a perfect place for bacteria and viruses to grow which can be the cause of sinusitis which is common during pregnancy.

Renal: Blood flow to the kidneys increases by 50% and kidney size increases by 1 cm.

Gastrointestinal: There is delayed emptying of the stomach, due to decreased stomach acidity. This causes an increased transit time, and constipation. Gastric reflux is also a common occurrence.

Immune system: White blood cells increase.

Skin: There are often hair loss and stretch marks, and increased pigmentation of skin, with some women experiencing chloasma (pregnancy mask), darkening of the skin over the abdomen and areola.

Structural: There are changes in the posture as the neck and upper back move backwards, and the low back gets more curvature. The breasts increase in size in preparation of breastfeeding, hips become wider, and the size of the feet will increase.

Pregnancy yoga and regular Osteopathic or gentle Chiropractic manipulation are helpful in maintaining a strong core and good posture.

Back pain, hip pain, knee, ankle and foot pains as well as swollen ankles are other issues that manifest for some expecting mothers. Sciatica syndrome caused by trigger points in the muscles of the buttocks can be especially worrisome, but usually responds well to massage techniques and stretching. The edema (swelling) associated with pregnancy can even cause carpal tunnel syndrome in the last trimester. This usually abates a few weeks after delivery as the lymphatic system once again has room to flow.

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