Tiffany Chen, Partner of Robert De Niro, Opens Up about Rare Condition Following “Easy” Pregnancy

Tiffany Chen, the partner of actor Robert de Niro, recently opened up about her experience with Bell’s palsy after giving birth to their child. In an exclusive interview with “CBS Mornings,” Chen shared how she initially had an “easy” pregnancy but soon after giving birth, she started experiencing troubling symptoms in her face. She described it as if her face was “melting on itself.”

After undergoing an MRI, Chen was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a rare medical disorder that causes muscle weakness or facial paralysis. Only about 40,000 people in the United States are affected by this condition every year. Pregnant individuals, especially in the third trimester and early postpartum phase, are at a three times higher risk of developing Bell’s palsy, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Despite her health struggles, Chen praised De Niro for being sweet and supportive throughout her journey. She shared how he tried to reassure her by saying he didn’t see any difference in her appearance. Chen admitted to feeling self-conscious about her melted face but appreciated De Niro’s strength and support during that challenging time.

Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at The Facial Paralysis Institute, explained that sudden facial paralysis is the main symptom of Bell’s palsy, typically affecting only one side of the face. However, in Chen’s case, both sides of her face were affected, which he considered a very rare circumstance. The exact reasons behind the heightened risk of Bell’s palsy during pregnancy are still unclear, although doctors have speculated that fluid activity or immune system changes may play a role.

Treatment for Bell’s palsy often includes steroids and antiviral medicine. Chen shared that she took steroids and also relied on acupuncture to help alleviate her symptoms. She wore sunglasses during the interview to protect her eyes, as Bell’s palsy can affect a critical facial muscle responsible for eye closure, resulting in dry and sensitive eyes and issues with blinking.

Despite the difficulties she faced, Chen expressed that her symptoms have improved, and she no longer feels self-conscious about her appearance. However, she did mention that not being able to smile at her daughter, Gia Virginia Chen-De Niro, was particularly challenging for her. Chen worries about her child potentially facing judgment for having a “weird-looking mom.”

Chen also addressed the public criticism she endured regarding her appearance. While headlines initially focused on De Niro’s age, many speculated about the couple’s tiredness or unhappiness as the cause of Chen’s facial expressions. She urged people to refrain from making assumptions and judgments without knowing the full story, emphasizing the importance of empathy and understanding.

Chen’s experience with Bell’s palsy has motivated her to share her story publicly. She believes that while this condition may be a private matter, it should not be kept so hidden that people feel isolated or ashamed. By speaking out, Chen hopes to empower other women who may have similar experiences and assure them that they are not alone.

Ultimately, Chen credits her daughter for bringing joy and fun into her life, jokingly saying that her favorite De Niro movie is the one where she was the star in the delivery room. Bell’s palsy may have changed Chen’s life, but her daughter has undoubtedly made it more beautiful and meaningful.