I have psoriasis, and for 20 years my scalp has been so crusty and flaky that a shake of my head can create a snow-globe effect. But when I was pregnant, an amazing thing happened: My flakes vanished. I stopped getting treatments at the dermatologist’s office and started wearing black sweaters, just because I could.
Sure, pregnancy can be a nine-month gripefest—about aching backs, swollen ankles and barf-athons—but as I experienced, it can also be a time of unexpected and wonderful changes, both physical and emotional. “Some medical conditions improve during pregnancy, and for a lot of women, it’s a time of remarkable health and happiness,” says Stuart Fischbein, M.D., an OB-GYN in Camarillo, Calif.
Here’s how your eating habits, body image, relationship and more might improve during pregnancy. Just one caveat: The glory may be short-lived. About 48 hours after I delivered my twin boys, my scalp started to get crusty again. But hey, not being flaky was great while it lasted.
PERK: Autoimmune symptoms improve Autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and lupus develop when the body attacks its own cells, mistaking them for intruders. “But the maternal immune system has to develop tolerance [for the developing baby], and it does that by suppressing one form of immunity,” explains Roberto Romero, M.D., chief of the perinatology research branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
In other words, Mom’s immune system gets dialed-down so that it doesn’t attack the fetus; as a side benefit, some women with certain autoimmune diseases—including about 55 percent of psoriasis patients and up to 60 percent of MS patients—enjoy total or partial remission. Unfortunately, however, lupus often gets worse during pregnancy.
POST-BABY REALITY CHECK After delivery, most patients’ symptoms return to their pre-pregnancy levels.
PERK: Hair gets thicker Look at your shower drain—chances are, it’s not clogged with hair. “Normally, women lose 50 to 100 hairs a day, but during pregnancy, hormones prolong the growing cycle,” explains Andrea Cambio, M.D., a dermatologist in Cape Coral, Fla. “As a result, fewer hairs fall out, and there is an increase in the percentage of hairs that are growing.”
POST-BABY REALITY CHECK You may need to call the plumber. “There’s a steep drop in the percentage of growing hairs, and hair falls out rapidly,” Cambio says.