Khloé Kardashian had her baby True in April, but she issued a not-so-gentle reminder to fans on Instagram Stories that she was actually pregnant while she was filming the latest season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
“I was pregnant during the entire season of KUWTK,” she wrote, according to People. “Some women get ‘pregnancy lips.’ I was one of them. So my lips look crazy and massive. Trust me I know and I HATED it!” Kardashian added that “a lot of wild sh*t happens to your body and face while pregnant…it’s out of our control.”
She ended on this note: “Most people don’t have to film during an entire pregnancy so just watch the show and be kind about my growing body and lips. Pregnant women should be off limits.”
Later, Kardashian followed up with another tweet on the subject:
Still, plenty of people cast doubt on Twitter. “Khloe…Are you kidding? Really? The pregnancy has zilch to do with your lips,” one person wrote. “Lol Khloe Kardashian said 'pregnancy lips' sorry boo that’s not a thing,” another said.
You probably won't find this phenomenon described in medical journals, but ob/gyns say it's real.
“Swollen lips during pregnancy are a common thing that we see,” Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF.
G. Thomas Ruiz, M.D., lead ob/gyn at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., agrees. “Some people get more swelling than others,” he tells SELF, noting that pregnant people may also experience swelling in other parts of the face.
Given that there isn’t any research behind this, it’s hard to say why someone might develop "pregnancy lips." But there are some theories.
It’s a pretty well-known fact that swelling (technical term: edema) can happen during pregnancy, caused by the accumulation of fluids in a particular area. But it's most commonly seen in the feet, ankles, and legs during pregnancy. In the third trimester, you might also see some swelling in the face and hands.
What causes that fluid to accumulate? Well, it happens during pregnancy because the adrenal glands (small glands at the top of each kidney) make more aldosterone and cortisol—hormones that cause your body retain fluids—during this time. Pregnancy also causes changes in blood flow, which may lead to fluids collecting in the veins of your legs and the surrounding tissues.
When it comes to the lips, though, there may be a few other things going on. Fluid retention around the lips may be to blame, Dr. Shepherd says, which might push them out a bit more than usual. Or, that swelling could even be coming from an increased blood flow to your gums, making your lips look bigger as a result, Melissa Goist, M.D., an ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.
Your body circulates more blood volume when you’re pregnant, and your blood vessels tend to be more dilated to try to accommodate that larger volume, Dr. Ruiz says. The skin over your lips is pretty thin, and it could simply be that you see more of an effect of this dilation there because the skin is so thin, he explains.
There may also be a genetic component at play, Dr. Shepherd says, so if your mom got them, the odds are pretty good that you will too.
But ultimately, doctors don’t know why this happens, or why it only happens to some people. “It’s just like some people get more swelling during pregnancy than others—it’s very individual,” Dr. Ruiz says.
If you do happen to get "pregnancy lips," it's nothing to stress over.
Really, it’s harmless, Dr. Shepherd says, and it should be short-lived. “There are a lot of things facially that might change during pregnancy, including your lips, but usually most will resolve after delivery,” Dr. Shepherd says.