5 Ways Pregnancy Changes Your Body

It’s a given that your body goes through some major changes while you’re pregnant—but your belly and your thighs aren’t the only things that that transform when you’ve got a bun in the oven. Pregnancy permanently changes the size of a woman’s foot, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Researchers measured the foot length and arch height of 49 women during their first trimester and again five months after giving birth. In 60 to 70 percent of participants, they found a reduction in the height of the arch, a reduction in the rigidity of the tissue responsible for holding the arch up, and a 2 to 10 millimeter increase in foot length.

Surprisingly, the change isn’t tied to pregnancy weight gain. “We found that the changes in the feet were independent of how much weight people gained during pregnancy, as well as independent of whether they lost the weight after pregnancy,” says Neil Segal, MD, lead study author and associate professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Iowa. So what may cause the permanent change in a woman’s feet? Though he didn’t measure them specifically for this study, Segal says that two hormones—estrogen and relaxin—may be to blame. “We think that the main purpose of these hormones is to relax the ligaments in the joints and pelvis in order to allow delivery,” he says. “However, the hormones go to the whole body, so they also cause loosening at the knee joints and have been reported to cause loosening in the wrists. In this study, they may be what accounted for the changes in the feet.”

That’s not the only way that pregnancy affects your body, though. Laura Corio, MD, an OB-GYN at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, shares some of the other surprises in store for moms-to-be:

Your Skin
Don’t freak out if you start breaking out shortly after conceiving. Corio says it’s pretty common to have acne early on, particularly during the first trimester. Many women can also get skin tags due to hormonal spikes. Some of these can linger after you give birth, but a dermatologist can easily remove them. Perhaps the most frustrating skin-related change is discoloration, which can happen all over the body and may take up to a year to fade. Also, some women might develop a dark, brownish line (known as linea nigra) that goes down their stomach vertically. In time, this fades on its own.

Your Veins
Women might be more prone to getting varicose veins during pregnancy—and they may actually get more with each pregnancy. The weight of the baby exerts pressure on the veins, making it harder for blood to return to the heart. The (not pretty) result: swollen-looking veins.

Your Hands
Along with your feet, your hands might get larger, Corio says. During pregnancy, your hands swell (to the point where you might have to have your rings resized) as you retain more water. Sometimes, they don’t return to the pre-pregnancy size.

Your Hair
While your hair might look shiny and healthy during pregnancy, you may start losing some of your locks as soon as you give birth. This happens because your hormones are incredibly high during pregnancy, and as soon as you deliver, they drop, causing you to shed. This can last up to six months post-partum, but your hair will eventually return to how its pre-pregnancy state, Corio says.

photo: Creatas Images/Thinkstock

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The Biggest Myths About Sex and Pregnancy
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How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy
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6 Ways to Boost Your Body Confidence

body imageAs the saying goes, perception is reality. And when it comes to battling body demons, new research published online in Sex Roles suggests that
women’s perception of their friends’ body image concerns influences how they feel about their own bodies.

Researchers asked 75 pairs of college-aged female friends how often they talked to each other about four weight-related topics: nutrition, weight loss, appearance, and exercise. They also assessed the women’s body image and the pressure they felt to be thin. Conversations on these topics were related to feeling dissatisfied with their bodies—but, surprisingly, less so when they talked about exercise.

Bad news for the less confident: It turns out that the women who were hung up on their bodies assumed that their friends were, too, and their body image concerns mirrored what they perceived their friend’s concerns to be. The more they thought that their friend was dissatisfied, the more dissatisfied they became, says Louise Wasylkiw, Ph.D., study author and psychology professor at Mount Allison University in Canada. “For example, I think my friend feels bad, therefore, appearance is really important and I should feel bad, too,” Wasylkiw says.

Wasylkiw says the finding that perceptions matter wasn’t entirely surprising, but she was excited to discover that talking about exercise had a positive effect. “Our initial thought was that talking about exercise orients women to thinking about what their bodies can do rather than focusing on what their bodies look like,” she says. “If friends shared their physical activities with their friends, it may very well have a positive impact on both the friendship as well as on each woman.

So the next time your friend tells you that she went to the gym, ask her how her workout went—you might be doing both of you a favor.

In the meantime, here are 6 other ways to combat negative body image.

1. Acknowledge (and Stop) Fat Talk
“Women are notorious for passing the baton when it comes to body image,” says Robyn Silverman, Ph.D., body image expert and author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls.  Silverman calls it fat talk.

“If a woman says ‘I’m so fat,’ the other woman might feel like she has to say ‘no, I’m the fat one. Have you seen my thighs?’” Silverman says. “Then there’s this back and forth over whose body is worse to elevate the other person.” The problem: Even women who don’t feel negatively about their bodies will engage in this behavior and eventually, it can make them feel worse.

If you and your friends are prone to fat-talking, Silverman suggests that you jokingly say something like, “Isn’t it amazing that when women get together, ‘fat’ comes out of our mouths?’ We are successful, smart, amazing women and this is what we have to talk about?” Then change the subject. You could even establish that your friendship is a fat talk-free zone.

If a friend can’t stop, discuss it with her. “The discussion you should have is ‘I really love having you as a friend. Every time we’re together I feel like this is a conversation that we wind up having and I think it makes us both feel bad. What do you think about that?’”

2. Put Action Before Appearance
Shift your focus from what your body looks like to what it can do, Silverman says. “Instead of saying ‘I hate my thighs,’ ask yourself: What do your thighs allow you to do?” she says. “Maybe it becomes ‘my legs allow me to take zumba class, which makes me feel awesome.’’

“When you can talk positively about yourself in terms of what your body can do, you start to view your body in a very different way,” she says.

3. Identify Body Parts You Love
Make sure you’re also focusing on the things that you love about yourself, Silverman suggests. “Some people look at themselves in the mirror and say horrible things. If they’re saying it out loud, then they’re hearing that—they’re underscoring the problem.” Pick a body part that you love—your breasts, your shoulders, your butt—and talk out loud about it. “In the same way, if you’re saying ‘My butt looks great in these jeans,’ then you’re hearing that, too.”

4. Bust Out the Post-Its
Changing how you talk to yourself is a habit that you have to both break and create, so expect it to take a month before positive self-talk feels like second nature. “If you’re struggling with it and you think ‘I feel like I’m lying to myself,’ ask your friends for help.” The next time a friend or family member pays you a compliment, ask them to write it down, then tape it to your mirror. (Or, if you’re too embarrassed to ask, just do it yourself in secret later). “Then you’re getting the statements of positive people in your life who make you feel really good to combat the negative things that you think about yourself,” she says.

5. Name Your Body Bully
Negative self-talk can feel like it’s your voice, but it often isn’t, Silverman says. She suggests that you try to figure out who or where it came from. For instance, a boy named Joe who made fun of your nose in the 8th grade. “If you have a negative thought, you can say ‘Joe, you’re not welcome here.’ You then take it off yourself and put it on an object,” Silverman says. “It’s not your voice, it’s not the truth, and it makes it so you can heal and move forward.”

6. Hold Yourself to A Higher Standard
Why not be as nice to yourself as you are to the people you love? “Think to yourself, ‘would I say this to my best friend, or my sister, or my mother?’” Silverman says. “If you cannot imagine another human being who you love saying this to themselves or someone else talking to them that way, then how are you talking to yourself in that manner?”

“Nobody wants you to do this to yourself. And you can’t want that for yourself either.”

photo: Goodshot/Thinkstock

More from WH:
Improve Your Body Confidence
6 Ways To Feel Sexier
Silence Your Inner Critic

15 Min Belly, Butt & Thigh Workout
What’s the 15-Minute Fat Loss Secret? Find out here!

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Lady Gaga: Eating Disorders and “A Body Revolution”

Lady Gaga is used to people critiquing the way she looks, but mostly as it pertains to her fashion choices (meat dress, anyone?). But after a stop on her “Born this Way” tour in Amsterdam last Tuesday, the press attacked her for a different reason: her weight.

A story on dailymail.co.uk had a headline that began “Looking meatier!” and included shots from her recent show where she appeared in a “meat” corset contrasted with a photo from a 2009 concert.

Gaga told radio host Elvis Duran that she gained weight recently and was trying to work it off. “I’m dieting right now, because I gained, like, 25 pounds,” she said on air. “I really don’t feel bad about it, not even for a second.”

And yet, the vicious headlines and internet posts maligning Gaga’s weight gain continued. Finally, on Tuesday, Gaga responded on her social media website Littlemonsters.com. She posted several photos of herself in her underwear with this caption:

Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15.

lady gaga eating disorder

photo: Littlemonsters.com


This wasn’t the first time Gaga has talked openly about her history with disordered eating: In a February interview with Maria Shriver, Gaga revealed that she was bulimic in high school and it got so bad that it damaged her voice.

Disordered eating has been making headlines a lot recently, with Gaga’s bulimia post only the most recent example. For instance, earlier this week Katie Couric and Demi Lovato discussed their own personal struggles with eating disorders, including Couric’s bulimia in her 20s, on Monday’s episode of Couric’s new show, “Katie.”

As we reported in the April 2012 issue of Women’s Health, eating disorders are on the rise in adult women. While troubling to learn about, it’s a positive step in the right direction for celebrities like Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, and Katie Couric to bring so much attention to such a serious, and often stigmatized, issue.

Another positive step: Gaga added a few extra lines to her pictures. They read:
today I join the BODY REVOLUTION.
To Inspire Bravery.
and BREED some m$ therf*cking COMPASSION

With her pictures and words, she created a section on her site called “A Body Revolution,” where she instructs fans to “Be brave and celebrate with us your ‘perceived flaws,’ as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous.” As a result, fans have since joined her cause, posting their own stories and pictures about recovering from eating disorders, battling cancer, suffering from skin diseases, and more.

TELL US: What do you think about the media response to Lady Gaga’s weight gain? What are your thoughts on her Body Revolution message?

More from WH:
The Scary Rise in Adult Eating Disorders
New Eating Disorders
Body-Confidence Barriers

You Being Beautiful
Find easy ways to look and feel good fast in Dr. Oz’s book You Being Beautiful

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Love Your Body: Improving Your Body Image

Body Image


I have a bump on my nose, wide hips, and thick thighs. Wait, let’s try that again: I love the unique bump on my nose, which I inherited from my beautiful grandmother…I love how it feels when my fiancé wraps his arms around my hips…I love that my thighs are strong…There, that feels better.

“Look at your body in terms of what it can do, rather than just the appearance of it,” says body image expert Dr. Robyn Silverman, author of the book Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It. Rather than critiquing ourselves, we should be motivating each other. So much of my wedding planning has been centered around how I will look on the big day, but what about how I feel? Light bulb!

Learn how to love your body…Plus: read what our Facebook fans said they love most about their bodies!

Don’t be a self critic

When you find yourself feeling bad about a body part or trait ask, “Where is that coming from? Whose voice is that? Is it the voice of an ex-boyfriend…” says Dr. Robyn. For instance, I tend to criticize my round face, and when I look back, I remember a little boy in middle school saying I had a “tomato head.” Well, little boy, sorry, but I happen to like my rosy cheeks!

Create a “fat-talk-free zone”

“Fat talk,” Dr. Robyn explains, “Is when we go ‘oh my goodness, my thighs are so fat’…the other person goes, ‘no, no, you’re not fat…I’m the fat one…have you seen my butt…what a whale.’” Sadly, I know too well—and I’m sure some of you do, too—what she is talking about. “Surround yourself with positive people. Take a good look at who you’re hanging out with, and realize they may not be the best friends.” I have definitely run in to some toxic people, and I am happy to say they are no longer a part of my life. Breaking ties can be difficult, but it’s well worth it.

Who, What, Where, When, How

I asked Dr. Robyn to give me some advice on how to really enjoy the wedding day and not worry about each hair being perfectly in place. Her advice is to answer the “Who, what, where, when, and how” questions in your life.

“Who in your life makes you feel best?” Dr. Robyn says. “Either surround yourself with those people or get messages from them.” Before the wedding ceremony, Brian and I will be reading messages we wrote to each other—kind of romantic!

“What can you do that makes you feel beautiful in every way?” I feel beautiful in lingerie, so…I’m wearing something special underneath my gown just for me!

“Where should you be? Inside, outside?…Where is it that will make you feel the best?” I need natural light to feel calm, and the venue Brian and I chose is all windows!

“When is your best time of day?” For me, the morning, and we’re having a daytime wedding, so that’s perfect!

“How do you want the day to go?” I want everyone to feel the love and enjoy themselves. Perfection is not the priority—love is (okay, a little cheesy, but that’s what makes me feel my best!

After taking a long look at my body image, I decided to toss it to our Facebook fans. I asked them what they love most about their body. The responses? Beautiful!

Here, are Facebook fans tell us, “I love…”

Body Image
Elizabeth Bella

“…my full hips and small waist!”
Body Image
Laurie Anderson Bartels

“…my eyes, my smile, and my curves.”
Body Image
SHa Cyunk ZaRa

“…everything [about] my bod.”
Body Image
Lisa Sweeney Sawicki

“…[that] my body looks better than when I was in my 20s.”
Body Image
Megan Mona Lundt

“…my dimples.”
Body Image
Trish TheDish Rathgeber

“…my strong legs.”
Body Image
Holly P-n

“…my face, especially my eyes.”
Body Image
Cmarie Breezy

“…my big nose.”
Body Image
Jennifer Cafaro Dillard

“…having curves and being a woman.”
Body Image
Reinette J.v Rensburg

“…everything God has given me.”
Body Image
Donna Harn

“…the wrinkles around my eyes.”
Body Image
Melissa O’Neill

“…the way I move.”
Body Image
Linda Birgis

“…my hair and my curv[es].”
Body Image
Nikki Suzanne Wade

“…my naturally red hair.”
Body Image
Dana Voigt

“…my newfound energy.”
Body Image
Anne Pennington

“…my broad shoulders”
Body Image
Nicole Alexandra

“…my full lips.”
Body Image
Emerlyn Gadiano

“…my radiant skin.”
Body Image
Jacqueline Cervantes Kious

“…my high cheek bones.”
Body Image
Lizette Anaya

“…my flat abs”
Body Image
Debra Temoche

“…my smile.”
Body Image
Leah K. New

“…my collarbones.”
Body Image
Nicole Wilson

“…the bump on my nose.”
Body Image
Sunita Goldstein

“…my smile.”
Body Image
Christine Susanne Nelson

“…my dimples.”
Body Image
Joanna Lewis Hiller

“…my entire strong body.”
Body Image

“…my eye shape.”
Body Image
Angela Boyd

“…the imperfections in my face.”
Body Image
Christine Livingston

“…my heart.”
Body Image
Leslie Delgado

“…how I am 41-yrs-old and still in shape.”
Body Image
Kiersten Sattler

“…my strong thighs.”
Body Image
Angela Boyd

“…my can’t-miss-it wagon.”
Body Image
Ora Lowe

Body Image
Jenne Griffin

“…[that] 60 feels good right now.”
Body Image
Kiersten Sattler

“…my my arms.”
Body Image
Leah Kristin Johnson

“…my curvy figure.”
Body Image
Go Kaleo

“…[that body] overcome obesity and metabolic syndrome.”
Body Image
Alyssa Wall

“…my natural curly hair”
Body Image
Nancy Reinhardt

“…all of it.”
Body Image
Anna Elizabeth Williamson

“…my smile and teeth.”

Thanks so much for sharing, ladies!

Want to see what I’m up to everyday? Follow me on Twitter @WHvera!

WH Blogs

ESPN’s Body Issue: Strong Is The New Sexy

ESPN Body Issue Gretchen Bleiler Cover

photo: Francesco Carrozzini/ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine‘s third annual Body Issue is out on newsstands and it features 22 athletes posing nude, with their private bits strategically covered. We love The Body Issue not only because it showcases the physiques of some of the fittest athletes in sports, but also because a few of its subjects have a powerful message: Strong is the new sexy.

As snowboarder and cover girl Gretchen Bleiler told USA Today, "This is not about being sexy but about being strong and powerful and showing girls it’s OK to have muscles. …And that strength and power is beautiful." Amen to that.

In her cover photo (above, one of four created for the issue), Bleiler looks crazy powerful (hello, abs of steel), confident, and, yes, beautiful. Read on to see what Bleiler and two other subjects—soccer goalie Hope Solo and gymnast Alicia Sacramone—have to say about their bodies.

Gretchen Bleiler

Claim to fame: 2006 Olympic silver medalist in the halfpipe, four-time Winter X Games champ

On her body: "Being involved in sports, you think less about how your body looks and more how it performs," Bleiler told espnW.

Hope Solo

hope Solo ESPN Body Issue

Claim to fame: Goalkeeper for the US women’s soccer team that won gold in the 2008 Olympics

On her body: "In 2008, I was maybe the fittest I had ever been, and we won the gold medal. I started to see the connection between my body and my accomplishments," Solo told espnW. "I couldn’t have been a great goalkeeper without power, agility and quickness."

Photo: Luis Sanchis/ESPN The Magazine

Alicia Sacramone

ESPN Body Issue Alicia Sacramone

Claim to fame: Captain of the 2008 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team; the team earned silver

On her body: "I work out really hard and I’m proud of my body," Sacramone told espnW. "I like that my body is in shape and toned, and isn’t too muscular. I feel I still have a woman’s physique."

Photo: Francesco Carrozzini/ESPN The Magazine

More from WH

Fitness Tips from Gretchen Bleiler

Alicia Sacramone‘s Strength Workout

WH Blogs

Missing Saratoga mothers body found

Missing Saratoga mothers body found
Mocha Latte: Terrible publicity for Saratoga Springs. Somebody needs to put an end to this negativity. loszer: When does someone stop all this guys act…Sure he has a contract but they are made to be broken…As… blah: Here is an even better idea.
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I just sold my phone number to Google for the price of a latte
By Jeff John Roberts Apr. 4, 2012, 6:24pm No Comments I feel so cheap. After years of turning down Google's request for my number, I handed it over today for a lousy $ 5. It must have been the promise of coffee that made me do it. In case you missed it, …
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