Women's Voices Change After They Give Birth, Study Finds, But It's Not Permanent

Swollen feet, intense cravings, leaky lactating — it's probably no surprise that pregnancy can cause some changes to your body and some of them may last long after. But of all of the changes that happen to your body during pregnancy and post-giving birth, this was not one you were probably expecting.

New research from the University of Sussex has found that after a woman gives birth to her first child, her voice becomes lower and more monotonous. According to researchers, women develop a more masculine version of their voice, but the change is temporary, with voices returning to their original frequency around one year after giving birth. Looking at 20 women who had given birth and 20 who hadn't, the study found that women's pitches dropped by over five percent on average — which is more than one piano note — after childbirth. Some women changed even more, the equivalent of over two piano notes.

Why does this happen? Well, the researchers had a couple of different takes, one of which is physiological. "One possible explanation is that this is caused by hormone changes after childbirth," Dr. Kasia Pisanski, who led the research at the University of Sussex's School of Psychology, said in a press release. "Previous research has shown that women's voices can change with fertility, with pitch increasing around the time of ovulation each month, and decreasing following menopause. We know that after pregnancy, there's a sharp drop in the levels of key sex hormones, and that this could influence vocal fold dynamics and vocal control."

But the researchers also thought that this change could actually be behavioral — even if the women didn't realize they were doing it. "Research has already shown that people with low-pitched voices are typically judged to be more competent, mature, and dominant, so it could be that women are modulating their own voices to sound more authoritative, faced with the new challenges of parenting," Pisanski said.

The other possible reason? Physical and mental fatigue — although the researchers thought it was unlikely that that was enough to cause the change on its own, no matter how tiring life as a new mother can be.

But a shift in pitch isn't the only thing that can change after childbirth. Here are some of the other changes that can happen, besides, you know, having made human life.

1A Darker Labia

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You may have already heard that nipples could get darker as a result of a being pregnant, but according to the MayoClinic, even your moles and labia can become darker, too.

2Hair Loss

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Yup — it turns out your hair often looks great during pregnancy, getting a lift from the extra hormones. But Hope Ricciotti, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School and a practicing obstetrician at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, told WebMD that you may end up losing a lot of extra hair after you give birth, as your hair returns to normal.

3Literal Brain Changes

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Thought brain rewiring was just a figure of speech? After giving birth, it could be a real thing. Changes in the neuronal network during pregnancy can last for years after giving birth, according to a 2016 study published in Nature Neuroscience.

4The Pregnancy Mask

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Many women experience a hyper-pigmentation issue called melasma, which can be known as the "mask of pregnancy", according to WebMD. It's especially common to see tan flecks or marks around the eye area.

5A New Shoe Size

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Your feet can swell during pregnancy, and while for many women that will go down after you give birth, some women have a permanently altered foot size, Ricotti tells WebMd.

Our bodies change all the time, so in some ways it's no shock that something as huge as pregnancy can alter your body. From a lower voice to bigger feet, you may find yourself feeling like a whole new person.