9 Ways Pregnancy Can Permanently Change Your Body
It’s no secret that pregnancy is a big thing for your body to handle. Aside from the whole growing-a-baby thing, hair sprouts in weird places, your skin stretches in ways you probably never thought were possible, and your boobs usually go up a cup size or two, seemingly overnight. While these kinds of changes can be temporary, pregnancy can also impact your body in more permanent ways.
Mom blogger Olivia White is calling out that fact in a Facebook post that’s gone viral. In it, White show off her semi-naked post-baby body and details how pregnancy left her with “droopy milk-filled boobs, wider hips, and a belly full of stretch marks.” She continues: “That’s my post-baby reality, no ‘bouncing back’ here!” (And while she says there are days she wishes her body were firmer, she also says she really wouldn’t have it any other way.)
Experts say she’s right—pregnancy can leave you with lasting physical souvenirs, some of which are more obvious than others. Here are the most common changes:
Several women say that they feel like their hips got wider, but it’s actually their pelvis’ bone structure that has changed, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, says. “During pregnancy and when you have a baby go through the birth canal, it changes your bone structure slightly,” she says. As a result, you may realize your jeans fit differently. “Some people don’t notice a change after, but others do,” Shepherd says.
It’s pretty normal for a woman’s feet to swell up during pregnancy, but some women’s feet can actually stay larger even after giving birth. “People may notice that their shoes fit differently after pregnancy,” Shepherd says. This usually goes away within six months to a year postpartum, she says, but some people may be left with permanently bigger-than-usual feet.
Smaller or larger boobs
Your breasts can actually “deflate” after you give birth, regardless of whether you breastfeed, Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob/gyn at the Center for Sexual Health & Education, tells. Basically, your boobs bulk up during pregnancy due to weight gain and in anticipation of nursing a baby, so they can change shape when they stop filling with milk. “Loss of fat under the skin causes a sagging or drooping of the breast tissue in some,” Whelihan explains.
But you can be left with bigger boobs after you give birth, too. There’s no real rhyme or reason to what you’ll end up with: Shepherd says around one-third of women end up with smaller breasts, one-third end up with larger breasts, and the rest have breasts that basically go back to their pre-pregnancy size.
Darker areola, labia, and even moles
Your boob size isn’t the only thing on your tatas that changes. The usual color of your areola and nipples may morph to a darker shade during pregnancy, then stay that way after you have a baby. This can also happen for your labia and even some moles on your body. “It’s caused by the high levels of estrogen during pregnancy,” Whelihan says.
After you give birth, you may still have trouble controlling when you pee. While most women end up having good control over their bladders around a year after giving birth, Whelihan says that those who had very large babies and delivered vaginally can have a lasting problem. If this sounds like you, it’s definitely worth bringing up with your doctor so you can work together to find some relief.
Also known as the “mask of pregnancy,” this condition, which causes brown spots to appear on your face, occurs in a majority of pregnant women, Michael Cackovic, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells. “The characteristic darkening of the face usually regresses within one year, but some may never completely resolve,” he says.
Your hair and nails tend to grow well during pregnancy, but the loss of hormones after childbirth can cause you to actually lose your hair, Whelihan says. As a result, it can feel limp and lifeless. Howver, this usually recovers after about a year postpartum.
While stretch marks often fade over a period of months to one or two years after you give birth, Cackovic says they don’t ever fully disappear. He points out that a large amount of weight gain seems to make women more prone to developing them, but pregnancy is such a major change that they can affect anyone no matter how much pregnancy weight they gain (and it’s worth pointing out that they’re completely normal).
A more stressed-out personality, thanks to permanent changes in your brain
Whelihan says this change is often the most overlooked. “Changes in the neuronal network during pregnancy influence how the brain moves into ‘protective mother [mode],’” she says. “The result of this is a focus on parenting, nurturing, and protecting, and a marked reduction in feelings of sexiness, erotic behavior, and playful intimacy-seeking.” Luckily, even though it may take some time, your sex life can usually rebound after childbirth.
Experts point out that these changes don’t happen to everyone—and it’s unlikely that you’d experience all of them. But if you notice that your shoes fit strangely after you have a baby or you leak a little when you cough, just know that you’re not the only one.