Pregnancy is a pretty wild experience—mentally, emotionally, and physically. But that shouldn't come as a big surprise—you've got a little human being growing inside you, after all. But with that little human being comes some crazy hormones that do some pretty wacky stuff to your body. Here are eight of the freakiest things that happen to you while you've got a bun baking in your oven.
1. Your blood volume doubles. Starting from the first few weeks of pregnancy, your body actually increases the amount of blood and plasma from 30 to 50 percent. Why? Because your heart is working harder and more efficiently, which results in more blood being ejected from your heart with each beat. Sounds kinda gross, but all that extra blood and plasma contribute to optimal growth and development of your fetus. "And extra blood helps to protect you from some delivery risks, such as hemorrhage," says Abigail Cutler, M.D., a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
2. You get a bit hippy. As your body gets ready to deliver your baby, your pelvic bone will actually separate in the middle. The main culprit: A hormone aptly named Relaxin, which contributes to (yup, you guessed it) the relaxation of the uterine muscle, separation of the pubic bone, and softening of the cervix, says Dr. Cutler. While truly not fun to think about, it's actually a good thing, opening up your pelvis so your babe can be welcomed to the world safely.
3. You develop a dark side. Notice a dark line growing down your stomach and your belly button getting a little brown? Known as the linea nigrea, it's actually always there, but pregnancy hormones change the pigmentation in our skin to make it show more. But the skin darkening doesn't necessarily stop there. "Some women get dark spots or patches on their face called melasma," says Dr. Cutler, who says that slathering on sunscreen can help prevent the dreaded pregnancy mask from getting worse. GTK!
4. Your vagina becomes unrecognizable. Whoa: you may find that when baby is on board, your vag actually changes color—turning a blue or purple hue (called Chadwick Sign). Also: It might swell up as a result of increased blood flow. You also might notice that you have a different odor down there or increased discharge. But wait—there's more (and it's the freakiest part): About 10 percent of pregnant women wind up with vulvar varicose veins. Yes, you read that right: your hoo-ha can actually start sporting swollen, sore, and blue varicose veins as a result of the weight and pressure of the uterus causing a decrease in blood return from your lower body. The good news: They should all clear up in a few weeks post delivery. Phew!
5. Your tootsies get bigger. Sadly, you may need to say so long to your cutest shoes, because your feet can grow along with your belly. A recent study from the University of Iowa published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation showed that during pregnancy the arch of the foot flattens out—as a result of both Relaxin loosening your ligaments and the extra weight pressing down on your foot. In fact, for 60 to 70 percent of the women in the study, their feet became longer and wider. Plus, fluid retention may make your feet swell. "It can take weeks for this fluid to dissipate after delivery," says Dr. Cutler. "So don't throw out your favorite shoes too early!"
6. You grow hair—like, everywhere. Hormone changes in pregnancy may cause the hair on your head (yay!) or body (boo!) to grow or become thicker, says Dr. Cutler. "Sometimes women grow hair in areas where they don't normally have hair, such as the face, chest, abdomen, and arms." Then, about three months after birth, you might notice your hair on your head falling out. Don't fear! "It's just your body's way of getting back to normal, which usually happens within 6 months after delivery."
7. You get brain fog. A report in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology found that about 80 percent of pregnant women have memory impairment. Still, no one knows why or what causes it. "It's possible that pregnancy hormonal changes—not to mention sleep deprivation or feeling stressed out that's so common in pregnancy or new motherhood—impair a woman's memory," says Dr. Cutler.
8. You've got vampire breath. Blame those hormones, which can cause bacteria in your mouth to become inflamed and overgrown, which can lead to bleeding and bad breath. "Even though gingivitis in pregnancy is considered unrelated to the amount of plaque on your teeth, pregnancy does predispose women for developing gum and teeth problems," says Dr. Cutler.