8 unexpected ways your body might change after you have a baby
Growing up, I had stick-straight hair—the kind you could just wash, air-dry, and be on your way. Then I had a baby. And all of a sudden the back (only the back!) of my hair turned curly. After I had my second little one, I was hoping the remainder of my strands would also curl up, just to even out the situation. But no luck. Now I’m stuck with a head of hair that’s always confused. Saying that your body changes during pregnancy—when you grow another human and then deliver that human into the world—is a hilarious understatement. “While most changes that happen during pregnancy are temporary, some women do experience lasting effects,” says Los Angeles–based ob-gyn Pari Ghodsi, MD, FACOG.
Some of these shifts—like stretch marks and loose skin—are all too common, and you probably know to expect them. Others are a little (okay, a lot) more surprising. Not all new moms find themselves dealing with each one. But if you’re expecting or plan to be in the future, here are 8 bizarre body changes to prepare yourself for.
1. Your hair falls out—or it changes color or texture
Pregnancy gives many women thick, shiny hair. “Increased estrogen levels during pregnancy support hair growth and prevent the typical shedding we experience when not pregnant,” says Susan Smarr, MD, an ob-gyn at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California. But when hair cycles return to normal after the baby arrives, some women naturally begin shedding about three months postpartum. What you need to be prepared for is how much hair actually falls from your scalp—it’s like a shrunken head washing down your shower drain every day. “It’s important that women know to expect this increased amount of hair loss, so they don’t get concerned that something abnormal is happening,” says Dr. Smarr.
Like me, many women also report that their hair texture or color (hello, new grays!) changes too, though these are less common. “These are anecdotal reports—it’s not a recognized process that happens with regularity like the expected hair loss,” she says.
2. Your breasts shrink
There’s nothing quite like breastfeeding cleavage. But after your boobs close up shop and lactation stops, you might wind up a cup size smaller than when you began, says Dr. Ghodsi. For example, a woman who conceived her baby as a B might upsize to a D cup and then wind up an A. “You lose a lot of breast elasticity, so they’re not as full as they once were,” she says.
3. Your period gets heavier
Not only do you have to endure weeks of bleeding after having a baby (whether vaginally or C-section), but now your monthly period might be different, too, says Dr. Ghodsi. (Expect to have your periods resume two months after you stop breastfeeding.) “It’s not uncommon for women to see their periods get heavier after they have a child. We have no idea why that is—it’s one of the weird mysteries about childbirth,” she explains.
4. Your body becomes wider
Sure you expect your stomach to grow significantly bigger for the nine months of pregnancy But you may not realize that to accommodate your bulging uterus and the developing baby inside of it, your ribcage has to expand. And to provide an easier exit down the birth canal, your hips need to widen as well. After pregnancy, however, your ribs and hips may not shift back to where they used to be. “Some women report that even after getting back to pre-baby weight, the shape of their body has changed,” says Dr. Ghodsi.
5. That dark line down your belly doesn’t fade away
Thanks to hormonal changes as you move through each trimester, the skin of certain body areas, like your nipples, might become darker. Weirdly, you may also develop a dark line that runs down your abdomen. “Once hormones go back to normal postpartum, this usually goes away, but for some it’s permanent,” says Dr. Ghodsi. If yours has not faded and it bothers you, talk to a dermatologist about your options to diminish this discoloration.
6. Your favorite pumps pinch your feet
When you’re carrying a baby, everything swells up, and that makes fitting into your shoes a sport. So while you might look forward to the day post-delivery when you can slide back into your favorite pair, we’ve got news for you. There’s evidence that during pregnancy, “the arches of the feet tend to fall and the length of the foot increases,” says Dr. Smarr. Sometimes, this means a permanent change in shoe size. Consider it a great excuse to go shoe shopping and get yourself some new kicks.
7. Your rings won’t fit on your fingers
The same pregnancy-induced body swelling also inflates your hands, including your fingers. But you may notice, as one of my friends did, that your rings still don’t fit even weeks after delivery. It might even look like your knuckles have actually changed shape. Dr. Smarr says that no data show that the swelling or knuckle changes are long-term or permanent. It may take some time, but once your weight goes back to your normal, you should be able to slide on your bands again.
8. You can’t handle even one glass of wine
Even if you had an occasional sip or two of wine during your pregnancy, you probably weren’t drinking as much as you did before. Once the baby comes, when you finally resume having wine at dinner or while socializing, you may not be able to get through half a glass without feeling a major buzz. “This comes down to frequency of use: If you went 40 weeks without alcohol, your tolerance will vastly decrease,” says Dr. Smarr. Other things might be going on in your new life with a newborn that make you feel even more sensitive to alcohol. (Lack of sleep, anyone?) Resume your social drinking habit, however, and your tolerance will eventually go back up, she says.