Is Pregnancy Glow a Real Thing?

Physiological responses to pregnancy explain the more radiant skin that may appear

The idea of “pregnancy glow” sounds like an old-timey myth. The notion that you can somehow become radiant while expecting seems like folklore in this age of elevated scientific understanding.

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But a more luminous appearance during pregnancy can be as real as that inevitable baby bump — and there are clear medical reasons as to why.

Let’s turn to Ob/Gyn Catherine Caponero, DO, to enlighten us.

What is pregnancy glow?

During pregnancy, some women may find that their cheeks grow rosier and their skin looks more vibrant. Those physical changes can result in what many describe as a “glowing” appearance.  

Women typically find that this happens in the second trimester. However, some women report it throughout their pregnancy. 

What causes pregnancy glow?

Explanations for gestational glow typically focus on two physiological responses to pregnancy.

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  • Boosted hormone production. A surge in hormones during pregnancy may cause your skin to produce more oils, making it look shinier. Reviews on this side effect aren’t all glowing, however: That extra oil also can trigger acne breakouts.
  • Increased blood flow. Blood volume typically increases almost 50% during pregnancy to meet the needs of your body and fetus. This rise dilates (or expands) blood vessels, which can lead to rosy-looking cheeks.

There’s also a long-held belief that happiness about being pregnant may add a certain luster to your appearance. There may be some validity to that theory, but it’s not always true.

“There are people who ‘glow’ who truly love being pregnant,” says Dr. Caponeo. “But not everyone enjoys pregnancy.”(Morning sickness, anyone?)

Can pregnancy glow indicate the sex of your baby?

Everyone loves to guess whether you’re having a boy or girl, right? Well, it’s been said that a person’s glow status during pregnancy can be a telling sign.

According to legend, a pregnancy glow means that you’ll have a boy. A face filled with acne, on the other hand, hints at a girl being born. (The theory there was that a baby girl “stole” her mother’s beauty.)

As you might expect, this is not a foolproof method. “There are no physical changes during pregnancy that will indicate the sex of the baby,” says Dr. Caponero.

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Does everyone get a pregnancy glow?

While pregnancy glow is a completely natural bodily reaction, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it.

“Bodies respond differently to pregnancy,” emphasizes Dr. Caponero. “So just as it’s completely normal to experience pregnancy glow, it’s completely normal to NOT see it, too.”

Other ‘beauty’ perks of pregnancy

Radiant skin is just one example of a “beauty” perk connected to pregnancy. Others include:

  • Stronger nails. The increased hormones that up your skin’s oil production also may make your nails grow faster and stronger. (Some people, however, see the opposite effect as their nails get softer and more brittle.)
  • Thicker hair. Your hair may grow longer and stronger during pregnancy — and once again, the reason involves hormone production. These more luxurious locks often hang around for a few months after delivery.

How long does pregnancy glow last?

The name gives it away. If you get a pregnancy glow, expect it to disappear soon after your pregnancy ends. “After giving birth, your skin will typically change back to its pre-pregnancy state as your hormones return to previous levels,” says Dr. Caponero.

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