Skin care during Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of change, from stretch marks to acne, your skin
reflects the big transformation that's occurring in your body. While not every
woman will experience all of these skin changes during pregnancy, here are a few
things you might notice.
Skin Changes During Pregnancy
Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy can produce a wide range of skin
changes: from stretch marks to acne to darkening of the skin. Most of these
changes disappear shortly after delivery.
During early pregnancy, some women develop
especially those who were prone to breakouts during menstrual periods before
On the other hand, some women find that acne improves during pregnancy.
Bluish or blotchy legs. For some women, especially those who live
in cold climates, increased hormone production can cause temporary
discoloration or blotchy skin in the legs. This usually disappears after
Chloasma ("mask of pregnancy" or melasma). Some women experience
a brownish darkening of the facial skin. This change is called the “mask of
pregnancy.” The pregnancy hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the
melanin cells in the skin to produce more pigment, yet because these cells
do not produce extra pigment uniformly, your facial skin may acquire a
It is more common in women with dark
pale skin. The woman usually has brownish, uneven marks on the forehead,
temples and middle of her face. Sometimes the marks appear around the eyes
or over the nose. The darkened areas may get even darker when exposed to
sunlight. These marks usually fade completely after delivery.
"Glowing" skin. The increased volume of blood causes the cheeks
to take on an attractive blush, because of the many blood vessels just below
the skin's surface. On top of this redness, the increased secretions of the
oil glands give the skin a waxy sheen. The result of these two factors may
Itchiness. Many pregnant women have itchy skin, particularly
around the belly and breasts during the second and third trimesters. This
happens as the skin stretches to adapt to your body’s growth.
Linea nigra (dark line on the belly). Many women normally have a
faint linea alba (white line) running from their navel to the center of
their pubic bone. It is barely visible before pregnancy. (You may not have
even known it was there). Sometime in the second trimester a linea alba
becomes a linea nigra, a dark line that is much more noticeable. For many
women, extra pigment (coloring) in the skin causes a dark line to appear,
running from the navel to the pubic area. This line fades after delivery.
Nails. For some women, hormonal changes may cause the fingernails
and toenails to grow faster than usual or to become brittle or soft.
Puffiness. During the third trimester, your eyelids and face may
puffy, usually in the morning. This is because of increased blood
circulation. This condition is harmless. But if you have puffiness along
with a sudden
weight increase, contact your health care provider to rule out other
Many women perspire more during pregnancy because of the effect of
hormones on the sweat glands. This can increase the chances of getting heat
rashes. Late in pregnancy, some women also develop harmless but itchy red
bumps on the belly. These can spread to the buttocks, arms and legs, causing
Red or itchy palms. Increases in the hormone estrogen may cause
your palms to become red and itchy. For some women, this may also affect the
soles of their feet, called palmar erythema. The increased color is nothing
more than a curiosity of pregnancy. Like most skin changes that occur during
pregnancy, the redness should fade after delivery.
Skin tags. Some pregnant women develop tiny polyps, called
tags, in areas where skin rubs on clothing or skin rubs together.
Commonly found under the arms, between neck folds, or under bra lines on the
chest, skin tags are caused by hyperactive growth of a superficial layer of
skin. Skin tags do not go away on their own after delivery. A health care
provider can easily remove them.
marks. As the breasts and abdomen grow, most women develop stretch marks
across the belly and breasts. These small, depressed streaks of differently
textured skin can be pink, reddish-brown or dark brown, depending on the
woman’s skin color. Some women also get them on their buttocks, thighs, hips
or breasts. These marks are caused by tiny tears in the tissue that lies
just below your skin and helps the skin stretch. There is no way to prevent
marks during pregnancy. They usually fade and become less noticeable
after delivery. You may see creams to treat stretch marks in the drug store.
It isn’t clear whether these creams work.
Spider veins. Some pregnant women have spider veins on the face,
neck, upper chest or arms. These small, red spots have lines branching out
from them. Spider veins are tiny blood vessels that appear because of
increased blood circulation. Hormonal changes may cause them. Known as nevi,
these burst vessels can be camouflaged by the appropriate use of make- up.
Nevi take longer to disappear than many of the other skin problems of
pregnancy, some spider veins on the legs or torso may not go away on their
own. A dermatologist can remove them using injections if you feel that's
darkening. In most pregnant women, hormonal changes cause darkening of
skin that is already darker than the rest of the woman’s skin. This
darkening may be most obvious in
areolas (colored rings around the breast nipples), nipples, labia (the
genital tissue outside of the vagina) and the inner thighs. Some of this
darkening may fade after delivery. But these areas are likely to remain
darker than they were before pregnancy.
Skin Changes: What You Can Do
changes during pregnancy are unavoidable. Most disappear on their own after
delivery. These tips may help reduce or treat
problems that occur during pregnancy:
Skin cleansing. Good
cleansing is the best way to avoid or treat
breakouts. Wash your face with a mild cleanser two or three times a day.
Don’t wash too often or the skin may become dry, aggravating the problem.
IMPORTANT: Do not take any acne medications or over-the-counter
treatments without checking with your health care provider. Some of these
are not safe for pregnant women to use. Accutane (also called isotretinoin,
Amnesteem and Claravis) is a prescription medication used to treat severe
acne. It is a member of a family of drugs called retinoids. Accutane and
other retinoids can cause very serious birth defects.
Sun protection. Your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy.
protection is very important at this time. Sunlight can darken pigment
changes in your skin and increase your
chances of getting “mask of pregnancy.” Use a good sun block, cover up, and
wear a hat when outside. Limit the time you spend outdoors between 10 a.m.
and 2 p.m.
Make-up. Cover-up and
foundation can help hide dark streaks or spots on the skin. Avoid
make-ups that contain mercury. Look at the label to see if the
Stretch marks. You won’t be able to avoid
marks entirely. It will help if you gain only the recommended amount of
weight (usually 25 to 35 pounds), and do so slowly.
Moisturize your belly and your breasts to reduce itchiness and
To avoid skin irritation, use unscented
moisturizer. Use mild soap when washing. Avoid hot showers or baths.
They can dry out the skin.
Excessive heat. Heat can intensify itchiness and rashes. When you
go out in warm weather, wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing.
When to Talk to Your Health Care Provider
Most skin changes during pregnancy are harmless and painless. A few conditions
might require medical attention:
itchiness. Severe itchiness, particularly in the third trimester, can be
a sign of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). This is a liver
problem that affects a very small percentage of pregnant women. Symptoms
include severe itchiness all over the skin and sometimes nausea, vomiting,
fatigue, yellowing of the skin and loss of appetite. Talk to your health
care provider right away if you feel that you might have this condition. ICP
does not harm a woman’s health, but it can hurt the baby. Women who have ICP
are more likely to have stillbirths or to deliver prematurely. Premature
babies are at increased risk of health problems and lasting disabilities.
ICP usually goes away on its own after delivery.
Skin darkening with other symptoms. Certain types of skin
darkening can be a sign of a serious problem. Let your health care provider
know if changes in skin color are accompanied by pain, tenderness, redness
or bleeding, or if you notice any changes in the color, shape or size of a
Puffiness of the eyelids. Some puffiness of the eyelids is normal
during the third trimester. But contact your health care provider if you
suddenly gain five pounds or more. This could mean that you are retaining
too much fluid and have
Always talk to your health care provider before using any medicated
creams or ointments to treat skin problems. Some are unsafe during pregnancy.