This Is What Happens To Your Stomach During Pregnancy, Inside & Out

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that your stomach changes dramatically during pregnancy. Whether you've dreamed your whole life of having a big baby belly, or if watching your middle expand is a tough pill to swallow, it helps to know the ins and outs of what goes on with your body when you're carrying new life. So what happens to your stomach during pregnancy? It's pretty miraculous, actually.

Many women find they have a baby bump before the end of the first trimester, but for some, it's actually just bloating. That's because of the hormone progesterone, according to the American Pregnancy Association. In addition to keeping your baby alive and well, progesterone relaxes your muscles and slows down your digestion. If you start showing early, you might start getting the atrocious "Twins?" comments from relatives, but the odds are your bump has more to do with stalled digestion than with the size of your baby.

As you round the corner into your second trimester, your uterus will have grown from the size of a pear to the size of a grapefruit, and is moving up rather than sitting low in your pelvis. In fact, Parents magazine reported that by the time you give birth, your uterus will have expanded as much as 1,000 times its normal size.

By week 25, as the much anticipated third trimester inches closer and closer, you may have a noticeably round, unmistakably pregnant belly. But of course, there is a spectrum: some women may have noticed their bump for some time, while others might not have any outward changes until a few weeks before delivery.

In addition to the notorious pregnancy stretch marks that half of all women are afflicted with, the third trimester might also bring itchiness to your middle region. Stretch marks will lighten with time, noted Parents, but the dozens of creams on the market that claim to prevent them are probably not all they're cracked up to be. Calming lotions will help the itchiness, however, so don't skip over that part of the supermarket aisle just yet.

Believe it or not, when it comes time to deliver, your uterus will be the size of a watermelon, according to the American Pregnancy Association, and extend from your pubic area to the bottom of your rib cage. But amazingly, after your baby is born, your uterus will gradually return to its pre-pregnancy size and position within about six weeks — although your stomach itself will likely need many more months to look more or less familiar again. Try to honor the postpartum process in the same way you honored your body's changes during gestation; it's all part of motherhood, and it's all beautiful.