I’m Pregnant, and My Skin Is Changing. Is This Normal?
Yes, many women notice a change in the appearance of their skin during pregnancy. Most of these changes are caused by an increase in melanin – the chemical that gives skin its color. Some skin conditions you might notice include:
- Melasma – Patches of darkened skin on the face.
- Linea nigra – A darkened line leading from the bellybutton to the underwear line.
- Hyperpigmentation – Browned spots, larger than freckles, which develop on the breasts, thighs, or belly.
- Acne – Caused by fluctuating hormones that disrupt the skin’s oil production.
- Stretch marks – Rough, reddened lines that develop on the thighs, buttocks, breasts, and belly where the skin has been stretched.
- Itchy or bumpy rashes – These are symptoms of rare skin conditions that affect pregnant women.
What Can I Do About Dark Patches on My Skin?
Darkened skin during pregnancy is not harmful, but you should apply sunblock regularly to prevent further pigmentation. You may also want to invest in a sun hat to shade your face while outdoors.
Generally, women find that their skin returns to its normal color after they’ve given birth. For some women, the dark spots will linger for a few years after pregnancy.
What Can I Do About Acne?
It’s not uncommon for acne to develop, or worsen, during pregnancy. To treat acne, follow these tips:
- Use only oil-free lotions and cosmetics on your face.
- Wash your make-up brushes each month, and replace old cosmetics regularly.
- Wash your face in the morning and before bed with warm water and a mild facial soap.
- Refrain from picking, scratching, or squeezing zits.
- Tie your hair away from your face, and wash it daily if it’s especially oily.
- Pick up an over-the-counter topical cleanser or cream. Look for products that contain salicylic acid (topical only), benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, or glycolic acid. You may want to try a few different products. Try one out for a week or two to see how your skin responds before trying a new one. If you can’t find a treatment that works for you, get in touch with your doctor.
Which Prescription Skin Medications Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?
If you’re currently taking any of these prescription drugs for acne, you should stop using them and contact your OB-GYN for an alternative solution.
- Hormone therapy. Many acne medications work by blocking the production of certain hormones. Using them while pregnant could cause birth defects.
- Oral tetracyclines. These are antibiotics that can harm your baby’s teeth and bones.
- Retinol. This is a type of vitamin A, which speeds up cellular division in the skin and boosts its renewal powers. Vitamin A has been shown to be harmful to fetal development when taken in excess, causing birth defects and intellectual disabilities.
- Topical retinoids. These are also forms of vitamin A and can be found both in prescription and over-the-counter topical ointments that treat acne and fight wrinkles. Retinoids are meant to work on the skin, but a small amount of the drug does get absorbed into your bloodstream and can be passed to the fetus and harm its development.
I Have Itchy or Bumpy Rashes. What Could Be the Problem?
Although uncommon, some women can develop itching, hives, bumps, blisters, or rashes during pregnancy. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, call your OB-GYN.
Prurigo of pregnancy
Prurigo presents as small, itchy bumps that develop anywhere on the body and anytime during pregnancy. You may notice one or two at first, with the number increasing every day. Experts believe the condition is associated with changes in the immune response during pregnancy. The bumps may last for a few months, possibly even after delivery.
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP)
PUPPP are small, red hives that can cluster and become itchy patches. They usually develop on the belly, breasts, thighs, and buttocks, and disappear after delivery.
These are blisters that form on the abdomen later in pregnancy, or even after delivery.
The condition may be a sign of an autoimmune disorder called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). ICP is a liver condition that manifests as severe itching on the palms and bottoms of the feet, but with no visible rash. It typically develops in the third trimester and subsides after birth. This disorder is also associated with pregnancy complications.
My Veins Are Changing in Appearance. Is This Normal?
During pregnancy, many women see changes in the appearance of their veins. The two most common conditions are:
These are thin networks of reddened capillaries that develop due to the increase in blood production to accommodate your baby’s development. After spending a long time on your feet, these can cause aching or burning sensations . They typically disappear after pregnancy.
A pregnant womb can reduce blood flow to your legs, causing your veins to swell and turn blue. Varicose veins can be tender to touch. They may form on your genitals and rectum as well – also known as hemorrhoids. The condition usually subsides after pregnancy.
What Should I Do to Treat Varicose Veins?
There’s no way to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy, but there are some steps you can take to improve circulation and stop the condition from becoming worse. Following these steps can also make you feel more comfortable during pregnancy.
- Avoid crossing your legs for long stretches of time, such as at work or at school.
- Elevate your legs when you can with a footstool.
- Get some exercise. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great low-impact options for pregnant women.
- Wear compression stockings.
- Prevent constipation by adding fiber to your diet and increasing your fluid intake.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Hair Growth?
Some women notice their hair growing thicker or appearing in places that it usually does not, such as the face, belly, or chest. You may also notice that some of the hair from your head falls out a few months after giving birth. These changes are caused by pregnancy hormones spiking and then leveling out again. Your hair should grow normally again about 6 months after delivery.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Nail Growth?
Pregnancy hormones can cause your nails to grow more quickly than normal, or, oddly enough, make your nails weaker and more brittle, causing splits and breaks. Your nails should return to normal after giving birth.