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Expecting Mothers Article

Skin Changes in Pregnancy

By Aponjon Content Team

Why does my skin change in pregnancy?

Now that you are pregnant, there are so many changes going inside of your body. No wonder some of the changes will be showing outside too. One of them is the obvious growing bump. Other changes will be visible on your skin.

During pregnancy, you may develop:

  •  stretch marks
  •  changes in skin color (pigmentation)
  •  spots (acne)
  •  itchy skin

These changes are usually caused by a change in hormone levels in your body as well as by the changes to your immune system. Most skin changes are harmless and last only as long as pregnancy and disappear after your baby is born.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are one of the most common skin changes during pregnancy. Almost 90% of pregnant women will experience stretch marks. Stretch marks appear as reddish streaks on your abdomen and breasts. They start appearing as your belly grows or when you start gaining weight. Pregnancy causes your skin to stretch more and faster than usual. Higher levels of hormones also disrupt your skin's protein balance, making it thinner. Stretch marks appear when the thin skin splits due to the increasing tension or stretching as your belly grows.

Within six months after delivery, these streaks gradually fade and become whitish in color. Although there is almost nothing you can do to prevent stretch marks, but you can try to minimize them by –

  •  Applying lotions or creams containing Vitamin E and alpha hydroxy acids.
  •  Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins E and C, and zinc.
  •  Eating a balanced diet containing appropriate amount of  calorie for pregnancy stage, so that you don’t gain too much weight too quickly.
  •  Doing regular exercises like yoga.

Pigmentation (skin darker than usual)

When you become pregnant, one of the first things that you will notice is some parts of your skin gets darker such as the nipples and surrounding area (areola). Later in the second trimester, you may notice brown patches of pigmentation on your nose, cheeks and sometimes on forehead and neck too. This happens as the pregnancy hormones stimulate the melanin cells in those particular areas of your skin to produce more pigment.

The brown patches on your face is known as ‘chloasma’ or ‘melasma’. Sometimes chloasma cannot be prevented, but you can minimize the intensity of these blotchy, darkened areas by limiting your exposure to ultraviolet light i.e. sunshine, which further stimulates melanin production. Being out in the sun will darken the patches, making them show more. It's a good idea to use sunscreen or use umbrellas during pregnancy to prevent chloasma from occurring or to prevent existing patches from getting darker. They should fade within three months of your baby's birth.

Pigmentation (dark line down the belly)

The dark line appears down the middle of your belly around the second trimester. This is called the ‘linea nigra’. In some women the line extends upward from the navel as well. This also appears due to the same hormone changes that stimulate melanin production. The line typically fades within a few months after delivery.

Spots (Acne)

You probably thought your pimple days were over, but one of the skin changes during pregnancy you can expect is acne. You may develop acne in your first trimester. Higher levels of hormones encourage the production of sebum, the oily substance that keeps your skin supple. Too much sebum causes pores to become blocked, resulting in greasy skin and spots.

While the acne of pregnancy is rarely as severe as that of adolescence, you may need to return to some of your teenage cleansing rituals. Cleanse regularly with a mild soap and lukewarm water or a gentle face wash. Avoid abrasive scrubs or exfoliants; pregnant skin is too sensitive for these. Don't use acne creams or treatments unless your doctor advises you to. Because of the risk of birth defects, some anti- acne prescription drugs cannot be used during pregnancy. Fortunately, pregnancy is much shorter than adolescence; the bumps and pimples will subside a few weeks after delivery.

Itchy skin

Itchy skin is a common condition during pregnancy. You may find yourself scratching your growing belly at the end of the day. As your belly grows, your skin stretches and tightens. This causes very uncomfortable dryness and itching. Sometimes itchiness and rash can be due to tight fitting of clothes and excessive perspiration. Applying calamine lotion onto itchy areas may help. But you should

definitely see your doctor if

  •  if you have severe itching all over your body;
  •  if you have nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and jaundice with itching; or
  •  if you have rash or irritation for more than a couple of days.

Final words

There isn’t much you can do about the skin changes. There are some marks and skin changes that will remain. But there are some that will get better, even go away. So, stop worrying and think of the beauty of motherhood that has brought you these side effects. You will start feeling a lot better about yourself. After all, people who care about you will still care about you, no matter how much you change. And don’t forget, you can get back in shape after pregnancy. So, enjoy every moment and everything that comes with it.