Adriana Lima and her family welcomed newborn Cyan Liam Lemmers into the world last year.
What was less welcome, however, were some of the comments supermodel Lima, 42, received over her postpartum appearance.
“She did something to her face,” one Instagram comment began. “Botox, fillers, she’s not the same.”
“What did you do to your gorgeous face?” another commenter asked. “It looks different?”
But the Victoria’s Secret model, who has three children, shut down any criticism with a photo of herself and the following statement: “The face of a tired mom of one teenage girl, two pre-teens, one active boy, a one-year-old learning to walk, and three dogs…thanks for your concern.”
Lima is hardly the first mom with a different appearance after giving birth. Pregnancy and postpartum body changes are common in all women, and while most are just temporary, some of the effects of childbirth stay with a woman her whole life.
Skin changes appear
Sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy,” dark patches of skin called melasma can appear on the face during pregnancy. Moles and freckles can also darken.
These are due to increases in the pigment melanin, which adds color to hair and skin. The dark patches often fade after childbirth, but some women with melasma may have patches for years.
Melanin is also responsible for the linea nigra — Latin for “black line” — a dark line that runs over the belly to the pubic hair during pregnancy. Both the linea negra and melasma can be lightened by using skin-lightening creams.
Postpartum hair loss
Women typically lose less hair during their pregnancy, which is why many pregnant moms-to-be notice their hair is thick and lustrous during their pregnancy, according to the International Journal of Dermatology.
But after giving birth, women fret that their hair is falling out. That’s the result of hormone levels returning to normal, and the hair loss usually stabilizes within a year or so.
Varicose veins appear
Swollen, sore and blue-colored varicose veins result from the added pressure a developing baby puts on the mother’s blood vessels, especially in the lower extremities. They typically occur on the legs, vulva or rectum, where they form hemorrhoids.
To prevent these concerns from developing, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises women to wear support hose, avoid sitting for long periods with crossed legs, elevate your legs whenever possible and — to minimize the risk of hemorrhoids — stay hydrated and get lots of dietary fiber.
In any case, varicose veins and hemorrhoids often disappear in a matter of months following childbirth.
Stretch marks appear
Stretch marks are universal for both men and women, as the skin responds to any extended or repeated times of growth by forming pinkish, red or light-colored lines.
Though stretch marks are usually there for life, they tend to lighten over time. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine suggest that retinoid creams derived from vitamin A can minimize the appearance of new stretch marks.
But retinol is something that needs to be used quickly. If the marks fade to white, it’s too late for retinol to be effective.
There’s some evidence that a botanical extract from the Centella asiatica plant — a member of the parsley family — might also also help prevent or reduce the severity of stretch marks, according to a review in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Breast size changes
Breast size increases during and after pregnancy to accommodate the alveoli, which contain milk as pregnancy progresses. After breastfeeding a child, the breasts typically shrink.
Additionally, the breasts lose some elasticity and begin to sag after childbirth. The good news is that breastfeeding can result in a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
According to a 2002 review in The Lancet, for every year that a woman nurses a child, her risk of breast cancer drops by about 4%.
The luminous “glow” that many women show during pregnancy is the result of increased blood flow and oil production, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
That increase in oil production can also cause acne. Keeping the face clean and oil-free can reduce acne, but beware of certain anti-acne drugs like isotretinoin and tretinoin, as these can cause birth defects and should not be used during pregnancy.
Other facial changes — such as a “puffy” or rounder appearance — are the result of fluid retention, which can also show up in the legs and feet. Fluid retention can also minimize a pregnant woman’s cheekbone definition.
And for some women, their nose appears larger or slightly swollen. This is the result of increased blood circulation in mucous membranes, including the membranes in the nose and sinuses.
Foot size increases
One thing that doesn’t really go away after pregnancy is the growth in feet, which is due to the additional weight that occurs with pregnancy and the hormone relaxin, according to the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
Relaxin — as the name suggests — allows bones, ligaments and other tissues to relax and stretch during childbirth. But relaxin affects all the tissues in the body, including the feet, which stretch out and flatten during pregnancy.
So, new moms, if you need an excuse to go shoe shopping, there it is!