The Best and Worst Baby-Body Changes

Those pregnancy hormones can leave you saying hurrah (bigger boobs!) or waaah (acne again, great). The wackiness is worth it: Estrogen and friends are working overtime to support the little one growing in your belly.
pregnant woman

Amy Postle

Now that you're preggo, you probably feel as if you're living in a brand-new body. Whether you're soldiering through all-day morning sickness or enjoying a model's radiant complexion, you can thank the flow of hormones coming from your ovaries (in the first trimester) and later from your placenta. One rule of thumb: "There are no rules!" says Rick Burney, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Madigan Healthcare System in Tacoma, Washington. "Every woman's experience is unique because every woman's hormone balance is different." It even varies pregnancy to pregnancy -- which may be why your first was easy and this one is, well, not. Take a peek at what's happening head to toe.

"I've got shampoo-commercial hair!"
You sure do, mama. Sky-high estrogen (your levels can rise up to 1,000 times above normal) prolongs the growth phase of hair follicles, Dr. Burney says. While it may seem like your locks are growing faster, they're actually just falling out less. But due to an increase in androgens, you may have more hair all over, including a furrier belly, face, or even nipples. Sigh. It's temporary, but if you want to defuzz, opt for tweezing or waxing: Nothing is absorbed into the skin; the same can't be said if you use bleach or depilatories. If you're game for maintaining your Brazilian, you may be more uncomfortable during the treatment and have more redness after, Dr. Burney says. With additional blood flowing to your pelvic region, it's common to be extra sensitive. (Which can be a good thing...more on that later!)

"I'm glowing!"
That sweet rosiness in your cheeks is likely due to your ramped-up blood volume, a by-product of soaring estrogen levels. Blood volume increases steadily until about the middle of your third trimester, Dr. Burney explains. By the time you welcome your baby, you'll have more than five liters of blood -- that's about 30 to 50 percent more than non-moms-to-be. You need the boost to support your growing peanut, but in fact, scientists think the rise came about in part to protect moms from losing too much blood during delivery.

"Ack! Acne again?"
If you're seeing spots, you may be particularly affected by the male hormones (aka androgens) coming from the fetus and your adrenal glands, says Bruce R. Carr, M.D., professor of reproductive endocrinology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Both sexes produce them, so you're not necessarily in the clear if you're having a girl. Androgens tend to increase oil production, which can clog pores and usher in acne. Keep your skin clean with a gentle cleanser, but avoid any products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, says Valerie Callender, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. "Safety studies have not been done in pregnant women," she says. Anything that contains retinols is also off-limits: High doses of these forms of vitamin A can harm an unborn baby. Instead, treat any pimples with products that have glycolic acid, Dr. Callender says. If your flare-ups are severe, ask your doc about prescription options, such as topical erythromycin, clindamycin, or azaleic acid, all of which are considered safe for pregnant women, Dr. Callender says.

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