Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Changes to your body during pregnancy

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Hormonal changes in pregnancy can lead to many different symptoms affecting your skin, mood and more.
  • The pressure that your growing baby puts on your body can contribute to symptoms such as heartburn and needing to pass urine (wee) more often than usual.
  • Mental wellbeing is important in pregnancy and having the right support can make a big difference.
  • If you have symptoms that are troubling you in pregnancy, it is important to speak to your doctor or midwife so they can recommend solutions.

How does my body change during pregnancy?

Your body undergoes many changes in pregnancy. There are physical changes to your body that occur from the size and pressure of your growing baby inside your uterus. Hormonal changes can also lead to physical symptoms and may affect your mental wellbeing. If you are ever unsure if a change is normal or something to worry about, speak to your doctor.

Physical changes

There are many physical changes that happen to your body during your pregnancy. Changes to the way blood flows around your body, your circulation, happen during pregnancy. Because you have more blood flowing around your body, you can sometimes feel dizzy, especially when you change positions from lying to standing. It’s important to get up slowly, and to sit or lie down if you feel faint.

You may notice that you have swelling in your feet and ankles, especially after standing for long periods and in hot weather. It is more common towards the end of pregnancy and is caused by the extra fluid in your body. If you notice swelling early in the day, or in other parts of your body like your fingers, hands and face, speak to your midwife or doctor.

The pressure of your growing uterus can slow the blood flow from your legs back to your upper body, and hormonal changes can affect how the valves that direct the blood flow in your veins work. This can lead to varicose veins.

Heartburn, a burning feeling in your chest and sour taste in your mouth, is common in pregnancy. It is caused by hormonal changes as well as the pressure that your baby puts on your stomach.

Pregnancy hormones soften the ligaments, the connective tissues that hold the bones of your joints together. This is most noticeable in your pelvis and lower back, but other joints such as feet, wrists and upper back can also be affected. You may benefit from doing exercises that strengthen your muscles, which a physiotherapist can teach you.

When you’re pregnant, you may feel like you need to go to the toilet to pass urine more often than before. This is due to hormonal changes in the beginning of pregnancy, and the weight of your baby pressing on your bladder in later pregnancy. You may also experience some urinary incontinence or leaking towards the end of pregnancy. This is because of pressure from your baby on your pelvic floor, which may also become weaker in pregnancy.

Use the Pregnancy Birth and Baby Service Finder tool to find a physiotherapist or continence specialist.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Changes to your skin in pregnancy

As well as changes happening inside your body, pregnancy can also affect your skin in many different ways. You may notice that your skin is ‘glowing’ from the extra blood flow or you may notice red patches, dry patches or worsening acne.

Areas of your skin that are pigmented (darker) may become even darker, such as moles, freckles, the areola of the breasts as well as the vulva, inner thigh and arm pits. Sometimes you may develop a dark line running down the middle of your abdomen. This is called a linea nigra. Chloasma is pigmentation over your nose, cheeks and neck that can happen in pregnancy. After your baby is born, the darkened skin will usually fade and disappear with time.

Stretch marks occur in 9 out of 10 pregnancies. They are usually on your abdomen, but can also affect your thighs, hips, breasts and upper arms. Depending on your skin tone, the stretch marks may initially be red, purple, pink, reddish-brown or dark brown in pregnancy, and fade to become pale and silver in colour after your baby is born.

Hormonal changes

Hormones can contribute many physical symptoms, including some of those mentioned above. They are also thought to be the main cause of other symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is often called morning sickness but it can happen at any time of the day. This is thought to be linked to hormone changes during pregnancy. It usually starts in week 6 of pregnancy and usually improves by week 14. It can sometimes be very severe and mean you need to go to hospital.
  • Food cravings — hormone changes can lead to cravings, including for foods that you wouldn’t usually eat.
  • Constipation — hormone changes can also slow down the muscles in the wall of your gut and cause constipation.
  • ‘Brain fog’ — research has shown that brain function and memory can be affected in pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Sometimes this is known as ‘brain fog’.

Mental wellbeing

It’s important to look after your mental wellbeing during pregnancy. You may experience a range of emotions at different times. These may include positive emotions such as excitement and joy, and negative feelings, such as worry and uncertainty. All of these are normal, and to be expected.

Hormonal changes in pregnancy can also lead to some people experiencing strong emotions and mood swings. Around 1 in 5 birthing parents will experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy. Anyone can be affected, but if you have had mental health problems, stressful life events, other illnesses or pregnancy problems before, you may be at higher risk of developing mental health problems in pregnancy.

Having support during your pregnancy and after your baby is born will help you to develop a positive attachment with your baby, increase your confidence and reduce your chance of mental health problems.

How do I manage changes to my body?

It is important to look after yourself during pregnancy. This includes stopping smoking and not drinking alcohol or using any illegal or harmful drugs. Looking after your fitness can also help you physically and mentally during your pregnancy and labour. Whether you have your GP, midwives or specialist doctors looking after your pregnancy, it is important to attend all your check-ups.

It is important to speak to your doctor or midwife so they can understand what symptoms you are experiencing and give you advice about your management options. For example, adjusting your activities to manage any ligament pain and doing pelvic floor exercises for urinary incontinence. Making changes to the size of your meals, how often you eat and which foods you eat can help with heartburn.

Resources and support

The Royal Women’s Hospital has information about common changes in pregnancy.

NSW Health has a helpful booklet that covers many different features of pregnancy and having a newborn baby.

Looking for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people?

The Royal Women’s Hospital has information about taking care of you and your baby during pregnancy.

Do you prefer to read in languages other than English?

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health has information in many community languages about many different conditions in pregnancy.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2024

Back To Top

Need more information?

Exercise during Pregnancy

There are many benefits to be gained from regular exercise during pregnancy. These include physical benefits and the prevention of excessive weight gain, as well as benefits for psychological wellbeing.

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Being overweight during pregnancy

If you're overweight or obese and pregnant, you’re at increased risk of pregnancy complications, particularly if you have other health conditions as well.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Weight gain in pregnancy

As your baby grows, you will gain weight. How much you gain depends on your weight before pregnancy. Lean more about healthy weight gain in pregnancy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

How much weight will I gain during pregnancy? | Queensland Health

Find out how much weight you should expect to gain at each stage of pregnancy, based on your BMI, and tips on what to eat and how to exercise while pregnant.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Why your Weight Matters during Pregnancy

Weight is a very sensitive subject for some women. However, because of the great benefit to you and your baby, it is recommended that you should try to reach a healthy weight before you become pregnant.

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Mental wellbeing during pregnancy

Your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy is as important as your physical health. Learn how to look after yourself, how to know if you need help, and where to find it.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Body image in pregnancy - COPE

COPE's purpose is to prevent and improve the quality of life of those living with emotional and mental health problems that occur prior to and within the perinatal period.

Read more on COPE - Centre of Perinatal Excellence website

Body image after having a baby

Giving birth can affect your body in many ways, but here are ways to feel body confident and help your body recover after having a baby.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Body Image and Restrictive Eating

Changes to body shape and size are a natural part of pregnancy and many women enjoy the physical aspect of carrying a baby in utero. For some people, this is a challenging time and can trigger or increase negative feelings or thoughts about body image.

Read more on Gidget Foundation Australia website

Looking after your mental and physical wellbeing - video

Learn some simple tips on taking care of your mental and physical wellbeing during pregnancy and as new a parent.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.