Common Skin Changes During Pregnancy
Now that you are pregnant, your body will go through a number of changes, including your skin. The hormones of pregnancy cause a variety of different changes in your skin. You may see changes such as a sudden glow on your face, darkening of previous freckles and moles, unusual rashes, darkened patches, or pinkish, reddish streaks on your stomach. Not every pregnant woman will experience the same skin changes, but of all these changes are likely normal and not concerning.
Your skin is a living organ that will expand around your growing and developing baby. As this happens, and depending on your genetics, you may experience stretch marks. The average weight gain of a pregnant woman is 25-35lbs over the entire nine months of pregnancy. This means that your belly skin will stretch, to accommodate your baby bump, and that can lead to stretch marks. Almost 90% of pregnant women will experience stretch marks, which appear as pinkish or reddish streaks, running down your abdomen and/or breasts. Exercise, hydration, and lotions that contain vitamin E and alpha-hydroxy acids have been said to help in the prevention of stretch marks. These remedies have not been medically proven to have a direct effect on stretch marks, but it never hurts to try. If you find that nothing is working for you, take comfort in knowing that these streaks will fade to silvery faint lines after delivery.
Linea Nigra is a darkened, vertical line in the middle of a pregnant belly. It is a natural part of pregnancy so there is nothing you can do to prevent this pregnancy line. The good news is that it usually fades away shortly after delivery.
Chloasma, or melasma, is also referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.” This common, pregnancy-related skin change causes dark, splotchy pigmentations on your face. These spots most commonly appear on your forehead or cheeks, and do not cause itching or irritation. When you become pregnant, your body produces more hormones, which cause an increase in pigmentation. Nearly 50% of pregnant women show some signs of chloasma. These skin changes should fade after your baby is born. To prevent the appearance of chloasma, you should wear a good sunscreen (at least SPF 30) whenever you plan to be in the sun. You can also protect your face by wearing hats or caps whenever you are in the sun. Your skin is extra sensitive during pregnancy, and exposure to the sun increases your chances of these dark spots showing up on your face.
When you are pregnant, your heart circulates approximately 50% more blood throughout your body. This increase in blood circulation causes your face to become brighter and more radiant. Your body also produces an excess of hormones that cause your oil glands to work overtime, leaving your face shiny. Both factors may result in the appearance of a “pregnancy glow.” If your skin becomes too oily, you can always use an oil-free cleanser to clean your face.
Pimple Breakouts and Acne:
If you already have a problem with acne, your acne may become more irritating during pregnancy. The extra hormones in your body cause your oil glands to secrete more oil, which can cause breakouts. Make sure to keep a strict cleansing routine. You can start with a simple, over the counter, face soap. It is a good idea to use fragrance-free soap to avoid nausea.
Cleanse your face every night and every morning. Washing your face more often than this can cause your skin to become dry.
Next, use an astringent to remove any remaining oil. Stay away from any acne medicated astringents; they may contain acne medicine that is not recommended for pregnant women.
Finally, follow this procedure with an oil-free moisturizer. If you find that you are having problems with acne, consult with your health care provider regarding safe acne treatment during pregnancy.
Dry Itchy Skin During Pregnancy:
As your belly grows, your skin stretches and tightens. This causes very uncomfortable dryness and itching. This is very common in pregnancy due to the increase in pregnancy hormones. To help alleviate your dry itchy abdomen, you should keep your abdomen moisturized. You can also use an anti-itch cream, such as calamine lotion, to help provide more relief.
If you begin to experience severe itching late in your pregnancy, particularly in the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet, these could be signs of a condition called Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). ICP is a potentially serious condition related to the function of the liver during pregnancy. Cholestasis occurs in approximately one in every 50 pregnancies. If you begin to experience generalized itching, particularly if it becomes worse at night, please notify your OB/GYN. Your doctor may take blood tests to verify whether or not you are experiencing ICP.
If your itching becomes intense, and spreads from your abdomen to your arms and legs, it could be due to a condition known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPP). A PUPPs rash occurs in about one in every 150 pregnancies. A PUPPs rash is itchy and looks reddish with raised patches on the skin, mostly on the abdomen. This rash is uncomfortable, though not dangerous to the pregnancy, and will go away after delivery. To help alleviate the discomfort with a PUPPs rash, your health care provider can prescribe oral medicine and anti-itch creams. Try taking a nice oatmeal bath to help relieve some of the discomforts.
Skin tags are very small, loose growths of skin that usually appear under your arms or breasts. After pregnancy, your skin tags may disappear. If they do not disappear, there are ways to remove them.
Darkening of Freckles, Moles and Other Areas of Your Skin:
Increased hormones cause changes in your skin pigmentation. You will notice that areas with dark pigmentation, such as freckles, moles, nipples, areolas, and labia, can become even darker. There is nothing you can do to prevent this from happening. If you notice that a mole or freckle changes in appearance or shape, you should contact your health care provider. These darker areas can remain darkened after pregnancy. The change in pigmentation can be noticeable, but not drastic.
We invite you to discuss all of your pregnancy concerns with any of our experienced providers. Please contact Premier Obstetrics and Gynecology at 321-397-1212.