Keira Knightley recently confessed struggling with a health problem a lot of women face but are too embarrassed to talk about: hair loss.
The actress said her hair had been falling out in clumps for years, forcing her to wear wigs for movie roles and to chop off her hair in real life. But she recently discovered a cure, and it doesn’t involve any pills, creams or special shampoos. The secret to her now-luscious locks? Getting pregnant.
She says the pregnancy hormones helped stop the cycle of hair loss and, since giving birth to daughter Edie one year ago, she says it’s healthier than it’s ever been.
But hair loss isn’t the only health condition that pregnancy can help with. Yes, help. While growing a baby inside our bodies can worsen some existing health problems, there are some that seem to get better during those nine months.
Psoriasis, one of the most common skin afflictions, happens when the immune system causes the skin to overproduce cells, which can lead to large, raised rashes. But pregnancy may provide relief from the itching, pain, and embarrassment, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Researchers think it’s because some of the hormones in pregnancy mimic steroids, one of the most effective treatments for the skin problem.
A disorder where the body’s own immune system destroys nerve cells throughout the body, multiple sclerosis causes problems with movement, memory, and energy. Pregnancy, however, naturally lowers the body’s immune defenses to keep the mother from rejecting the baby, according to a meta-analysis done by the National Institutes of Health.
This weakened immune system can make getting viral illnesses like the cold or flu easier but it can also make some cases of autoimmune diseases, like MS, go into temporary remission. They also reported that the pregnancy hormones seemed to provide a “protective effect” for the mother’s cells.
Unlike old-age arthritis — or the creaky, painful joints most people think of arthritis as — rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system goes into overdrive and attacks healthy joints, leading to chronic inflammation and discomfort.
The disease is primarily diagnosed in women during their child-bearing years, which interesting, because that same NIH study found that a temporarily suppresses the immune system, causing an overall decrease in inflammation throughout the body and giving many sufferers a nine-month window of relief.
High Blood Pressure
If you have slightly elevated blood pressure, pregnancy might take care of that for you, according to a study published in the Journal of Human Reproduction. Gestating naturally lowers blood pressure thanks to hormones that relax blood vessels as well as an increased blood supply which also increases circulation.
That doesn’t mean moms being treated for high blood pressure can stop taking medications — always talk to a doctor first about the best way to manage your blood pressure during pregnancy. (Note: If your blood pressure suddenly skyrockets, call your doctor immediately — it could be a sign of preeclampsia, which can be deadly.)
So-called “pregorexia,” where a woman diets excessively during pregnancy for fear of gaining too much weight, is a very real, very serious disorder. But for many women, pregnancy can provide a reprieve from body image problems and even eating disorders.
Pregnant women who have formerly felt chronically “fat” may see their bodies as having worth beyond what they look like and feel more powerful as they grow a baby. In addition, women who have struggled with restricting food, overexercising, or bulimia may be inspired to stop the behaviors in order to protect their baby, says a study published in the journal BMJ.
The authors warn, however, that all women with eating disorders need to be closely monitored during pregnancy as they may need additional medical and psychological help.
As your hormones skyrocket, so does your sex drive. Thanks to heightened desire, increased lubrication, and (hopefully) a reprieve from body anxiety, many women say they have the best sex of their lives during pregnancy.
It may not be a perk many moms are discussing at playdates, but the fact that it’s one of the top questions asked of Heidi Murkoff, one of the authors of the pregnancy bible What to Expect When You’re Expecting, shows that plenty of women are thinking about it!
This is not to say that pregnancy cures cancer, but several promising new studies have found that pregnancy can significantly reduce your risk of getting certain types of cancers — and the younger you are and more pregnancies you have, the lower your risk.
One study, published in the journal BioMed Central, found that just one pregnancy halves your risk of breast cancer. Separate research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, found that carrying one pregnancy to term lessens your risk of ovarian cancer by nearly a third.