Pregnancy and Skin Changes

Pregnancy and Skin Changes

For many women, pregnancy brings
glowing skin, rosy cheeks, and shiny hair. Others, however, can experience skin changes
that aren’t so attractive, including acne, dark spots, and stretch marks.

Here are some of the common skin
conditions in pregnancy, along with some practical tips on managing those that can
be
troublesome.

Acne

Increased blood flow and oil
production are the factors behind the radiant pregnancy glow. That radiance sometimes
comes with a price, as the increased oil production can result in acne.

Just as when you were a pimply
teen, keeping the affected skin clean and oil-free can help. But certain acne and
skin
care products should be avoided in pregnancy:

  • The prescription anti-acne
    drugs isotretinoin and tretinoin can cause birth defects and should never be used
    during pregnancy.

  • Don’t use abrasive scrubs or
    exfoliants as these can irritate sensitive skin.

  • Generally, most
    over-the-counter acne cleansers and treatments are safe to use in pregnancy, but
    you should check with your healthcare provider first. The good news is that acne
    typically goes away shortly after delivery.

Dark spots

A natural increase in melanin
during pregnancy is responsible for areas of darkened skin, especially on the face.
To
minimize this “mask of pregnancy” called chloasma:

  • Be sure to wear sunscreen or
    wear a hat while in the sun.

  • Decrease the amount of time
    you spend in the sun. Stay out of the sun during the peak hours between 10 a.m.
    and 2 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are most direct.

Most of these brownish-colored
areas fade over time, often within a few months after giving birth.

Stretch marks

Although most women expect to have
some stretch marks on their belly with pregnancy, many are surprised to also find
these
pink or red stripes on their breasts, buttocks, and thighs.

In fact, stretch marks can happen
anywhere there is rapid growth and stretching of the skin. Unfortunately, no methods
are
proven to prevent or erase stretch marks. And this is in spite of the abundance of
lotions and creams advertised.

The marks will fade over time and
any irritation can be reduced by using a moisturizer.

Spider veins and varicose veins

Spider veins come from hormonal
changes and increased blood volume during pregnancy. They appear as tiny red veins
on
the face, neck, and arms. The redness should fade after the baby is born.

Varicose veins happen because of
the weight and pressure of the uterus compressing the veins. This decreases the blood
flow from the lower body. The veins in the legs become swollen, sore, and blue. Varicose
veins can also be found on the vulva, vagina, and rectum (hemorrhoids). Typically,
varicose veins are cosmetic and clear up after delivery.

Other conditions

Itchy skin

Itchy skin is common, especially
in the winter, when skin is dry and easily irritated. Some women develop a rash
or itchy bumps that are caused by a variety of conditions. Although most are more
irritating than dangerous, you should always ask your healthcare provider about any
itching problems.

Hair growth

Hormones of pregnancy can
increase hair growth. Many women notice that their hair is thicker and healthier
looking. Sometimes those hormones cause hair growth in other places, too, like on
the
face or neck. Talk with your healthcare provider if you notice excessive hair growth
in new places. Most hair-removal methods are safe in pregnancy. These methods include
waxing, tweezing, and shaving. Your hair growth should return to normal about 6
months after giving birth.