From the moment baby implants in your womb (and maybe before), she’s had a place in your heart.
By now you know that you don’t have to give birth to already become a mother—pregnancy itself transforms you into the woman you need to be for your child. The science of how baby changes you is pretty mind-blowing.
Here are 5 ways your baby changes your life even before she is born.
1. You’re making space for baby.
When pregnant, your internal organs quite literally shift to make space for your baby to thrive. In this interactive tool developed by the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, you can see how baby forces your stomach and intestines (not to mention your womb) to shift upwards during the nine months in which she resides inside you.
You are literally transforming from within.
2. You contain multitudes.
One of the most amazing parts of pregnancy is knowing there are two people inside of your one body. But there’s new evidence that baby’s imprint upon your body is permanent: While pregnant, your baby’s DNA is already floating through your bloodstream—in fact, its presence is one way your doctor can find out about baby’s genetic conditions (and gender!) through bloodwork.
But baby’s pregnancy DNA in your blood is just the beginning. Recent research shows that for some women, the DNA their babies transfer to them during pregnancy can last a lifetime—altering a mother’s brain and body for decades.
One study in the International Journal of Epidemiology found 50- to 64-year-old women with the fetal DNA of previous pregnancies in their bodies. These women were much less likely to die from diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease compared to women without any fetal DNA present.
The Atlantic notes:
“Scientists don’t know for certain what biological mechanisms cause these findings, but past research suggests microchimerism [the presence of DNA from others] may boost immune surveillance—that is, the body’s ability to recognize and destroy pathogens and cells that might become cancerous—and also play a role in the repair of damaged tissue, helping form new blood vessels to heal wounds. Microchimerism is also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. These fetal cells migrate all over a mother’s body, becoming part of the heart, the brain, and blood—and fascinating scientist and artists alike.”
See? Having babies is good for you!
3. You stretch.
The majority of women who get pregnant will develop stretch marks over the course of their pregnancies. (Psst—want to prevent them? Slowing down your weight gain is the main way you can avoid stretch marks, explains dermatologist Rosy Chattha, MD.)
The stretching of pregnancy is a theme you’re likely to revisit in the coming years, as baby stretches you in other ways, like teaching you to function on less sleep, getting by on less money and bringing you more joy than you ever imagined possible.
Baby is making way. Let the great stretch begin.
4. Your mind adjusts.
“Even before a woman gives birth, pregnancy tinkers with the very structure of her brain,” the Atlantic notes. Eighty percent of pregnant women experience increased forgetfulness, Dr. Claudia Aguirre, a neuroscientist and mind-body expert, explains. Whether due to a flood of hormones, a psychological shift or some other pregnancy-related factor, there’s no doubt that pregnancy brain is a condition that many women recognize. So all that fogginess and “baby brain” might just be your mind getting ready for the challenges ahead.
5. Your heart is working overtime.
You know that whole thing about motherhood meaning your heart walks around outside your chest? While not technically true, the science of how your heart adjusts to the demands of pregnancy is pretty impressive.
Here’s how the Cleveland Clinic explains it:
“During the first trimester, the amount of blood in the body increases by 40 to 50 percent and remains high. During pregnancy, the output [amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute] increases by 30 to 40 percent because of the increase in blood volume. It is normal for the heart rate to increase by 10 to 15 beats per minute during pregnancy.”
It’s official: Baby has already changed you. For good. ❤️