health

Pregnancy's bizarre side effects

By Sandee LaMotte

Published August 3, 2018

You're glowing with the news: A baby is growing inside you! But as your belly swells, so does the list of bizarre things your body could suddenly do.

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Your lovely locks might never look better than during pregnancy, growing full and lush from the flush of hormones.

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On the flipside, you might suddenly sprout hair in places you'd rather not, including the face, limbs and torso. "Pubic hair can grow long and fluffy, and that freaks some women out," ob/gyn Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz said.

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Many women get a line down the middle of the belly. It's called linea negra, Latin for "black line," and Gilberg-Lenz said it's "basically an embryologic imprint, a memory of where your skin came together as an embryo." It occurs when the pregnancy hormone beta hCG cross-reacts with the melatonin pigment in the skin.

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The skin on the face can darken into "the mask of pregnancy" called melasma; it most often occurs in the mustache area and on forehead and cheeks. The areolas around nipples may also darken. The discolorations from linea negra and melasma will ultimately fade after baby arrives

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Acne can return during pregnancy due to hormones stimulating an increase of oil in the skin. Pregnant women should use caution with any skin products.

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Stretch marks are one of the most common and unwelcome skin changes that can happen during pregnancy. There's a genetic component: If your momma had them, there's a good chance you will, too.

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A rash called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, or PUPPS, is not dangerous but "could make you go insane," Gilberg-Lenz said. "It often flares after delivery and takes another six weeks to subside."

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As with varicose veins in the legs, pressure from the baby can cause veins in the vaginal area to swell. Hemorrhoids are also created by this increase in blood flow. Constipation and pushing just make them worse.

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Feet can swell from fluid retention and weight gain, but they can also grow in length: between 2 and 10 millimeters, a full shoe size. Unfortunately, they're unlikely to pop back after birth.

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Your teeth might shift -- and they will certainly be more sensitive. So are gums, which can swell or bleed after brushing. Having good dental care during pregnancy is a must, as these changes make you much more susceptible to gum decay or gingivitis.

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A one-two punch from the hormones progesterone and relaxin releases both the anal and lower esophageal spincters, causing flatulence and heartburn. Also featuring in the unmentionable category: an increase in vaginal discharge.

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Body changes during pregnancy might be unpleasant, but for most moms, they're totally worth it. Until baby comes, experts suggest reaching out to doctors and other moms for support.

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