Skin problems during pregnancy are quite common. The explosion of hormones combined with rapid changes to your body can cause a number of issues with your skin. Pregnancy can also cause preexisting skin conditions to worsen. Many of these will resolve themselves after birth whereas others may require further treatment.
Most skin conditions are considered very normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if you are worried or in pain, be sure to get in touch with your obstetrician or doctor. Let’s take a look at some of common skin during pregnancy and how to deal with them.
The majority of women will develop stretch marks throughout pregnancy. They are the result of the middle layer of skin (dermis) expanding faster than the layer above (epidermis). This reduces flexibility, preventing the formation of collagen and elastin fibres that keep skin tight. The marks tend to develop in different lengths, widths, depths and colours and they can appear almost anywhere on the body, from your shoulders down to your calves.
Marks will fade over time and in many cases, become hardly visible. For those who develop scarring with pregnancy, marks will start fading 6 to 12 months after birth. They are often unavoidable but there are steps which you can take to prevent their progression, including maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle, eating foods rich in nutrients, gradual weight gain during pregnancy, stay hydrated, and applying lotions to any affected areas. Lotions will reduce itch and irritation, but no lotion will make stretch marks go away, and if you are genetically predisposed to develop stretch marks, you will get them regardless of the cost or type of your lotion.
Hyperpigmentation is when dark patches appear on the skin. This is caused by an increase in naturally-occurring melanin – the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. Melasma is a common example of hyperpigmentation during pregnancy. This is when dark patches appear on the face. It is caused by the hormone Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH), and usually resolves after you have given birth, and stopped breast feeding. You can speak with a dermatologist about the treatment of melasma. One of the most effective ways to do so is to be extra vigilant with sun protection.
Skin tags are benign, noncancerous, tumors of the skin that appear as small soft growths. They can appear on the chest, neck, back, groin, and underneath the breasts. Seeing as they are benign they usually do not need to be removed, unless they are causing irritation (such as if they come in contact with clothing).
During pregnancy, you may be extremely frustrated to discover that your dreaded acne has returned. This is again due to hormones, which can increase oil production in the skin. Follow your usual skincare routine: clean your face daily with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water, don’t touch your face excessively, and only use oil-free cosmetics. There are some acne treatments that are not safe during pregnancy, so be sure to consult your doctor before using medications.
During pregnancy, you may notice veins in your lower body begin to bulge. This is due to all the extra blood you are pumping, the extra stretchiness of your collagen, and the extra pressure your baby places on the major veins that connect your legs and your heart. These can be managed with compression tights in some cases, and they will usually go away after you give birth.
Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP)
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is a condition characterised by pale red bumps appear on the skin. They are caused by hormone production and can range in size from very small (the size of a pea) to quite large (as big as a dinner plate) and can appear on the stomach, legs, arms, and buttocks.
They can be very itchy. For relief, your doctor can prescribe you with an antihistamine or topical cream. At home, use a cold compress to soothe itching, and try to avoid wearing tight fitting clothes that might irritate the skin.
If you have any questions about skin conditions during pregnancy, or would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.