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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
More from WH:
The Biggest Myths About Sex and Pregnancy
Will Your Baby Be Addicted to Junk Food?
How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy
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