Your body changes in monumental ways during pregnancy. From your hair thickening on your head, to the soles of your feet aching after just a short walk, every part of your body adjusts to be able to support and nurture the life inside of you. Your skin is no exception. As your body’s chemistry and shape changes, so does your skin. Discover the remarkable reasons behind 6 common skin changes during pregnancy.
First, a positive change to your skin during pregnancy: the pregnancy glow. Yes, it is true that your skin can take on a glowing appearance when you are pregnant. Why? Blood, sweat, and oil. First, your blood volume increases when you are pregnant, which sends more blood through your vessels. The increase in blood flow can cause your skin to look flushed, especially in areas that have more blood vessels, like your face. Additionally, your hormone levels change while you are pregnant. This fluctuation can cause your body to produce more oil, giving your face a sheen. You may also sweat more easily while pregnant. Flushed face + shinier skin = pregnancy glow!
Now for the bad news. The same change in hormones and oil secretion that can give you a pregnancy glow can also cause you to have pregnancy acne. This is most common in the first and second trimesters. Fortunately, pregnancy acne is short-lived -- it generally goes away either in the third trimester or shortly after you have given birth. It’s important that you wash your face gently with mild cleansers, don’t pick at your face, avoid oily skin products and cosmetics, and reduce how much you touch your face. While you are pregnant, there are certain acne medications that are not recommended because of the damage they can do to your baby. But there are some topical skin care products that your dermatologist can recommend.
It is common for pregnant women to experience darkening of patches of skin. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why this happens, but they theorize it’s due to the changing hormone levels during pregnancy. These pigmentation changes happen most frequently in the following areas: around the nipples, as a line from the navel to the pubic bone (linea negra), inner thighs, genital, neck, and face (chloasma). Sun exposure further darkens the patches of skin affected, so it’s important to protect your skin during pregnancy. After childbirth, most of these marks will fade, although occasionally, dark spots remain on the skin. You can talk to your dermatologist about skin products that can help lighten any remaining spots from your pregnancy.
You’re probably familiar with the fact that stretch marks can often appear on your belly in the second and third trimesters. But did you know that stretch marks are actually scars? When your skin stretches over your growing belly, the fibers in your skin can tear. As they heal, they form scars. The stretch marks are often blue or purple when they first appear -- this is because the blood vessels in your skin are showing. The scars will eventually appear as brown marks and some may fade after childbirth. While no product has been shown to erase stretch marks, your dermatologist can recommend some stretch mark treatments that may help them to be less noticeable. Laser therapy and microdermabrasion for stretch marks are some of the treatments you can explore.
Many women know that your skin can get itchy during pregnancy, especially on the skin around your abdomen, where your skin is getting stretched later in pregnancy. You can even develop itchy, dry, pregnancy eczema. But itchy skin can be a sign of something more dangerous -- a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). Affecting 1-2 women in 1,000, ICP occurs in the late pregnancy. The primary symptom is intense itching, especially on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. Typically the itching worsens at night, making it difficult to sleep. ICP can cause serious problems for babies, such that your doctor may highly recommend delivering the baby before the due date. While most pregnancy itchiness is mild and nothing to be worried about, you should contact your pregnancy care provider if you are experiencing severe and persistent itchiness.
Besides skin pigmentation and stretch marks, your skin may show off some other signs of your body’s changes in pregnancy. Skin tags and varicose veins often appear in pregnancy, only to disappear again after childbirth. As your baby gains weight in your uterus, it exerts greater downward pressure on your legs. This pressure causes veins in your legs to bulge. The increased blood flow in your body during pregnancy also contributes to enlarged and bulging veins. Varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort. Your doctor can recommend some methods to relieve your discomfort during your pregnancy. Another change you might notice in your skin is the appearance of skin tags -- small, soft, skin-colored growths that most often appear in your armpit, on your neck or around your breasts. Skin tags may appear because of increased friction from weight gain in pregnancy or because of hormonal changes. Whatever the cause, skin tags are not dangerous and often disappear after you have given birth. And if they don’t disappear, your dermatologist can easily remove them with some simple treatments.
Call Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area today. Schedule a consultation with one of Vanguard’s board-certified dermatologists so you can get your pregnancy skin-care questions answered and find out about helpful treatments both during your pregnancy and post-partum.