Skin Changes During Pregnancy: What You Could Experience
Expecting a beautiful new baby is a wonderful time in your life, full of anticipation and dreams of the future.
This time is not only full of wonder, but also many changes in your body. You may be seeing various skin, nail, and hair changes and question if they are normal, if they are permanent, and if they will worsen. If you are experiencing the following skin changes during pregnancy, you’re likely not alone.
Dark spots or brown patches frequently occur on the breasts, nipples, and inner thighs. A brownish pigmentation known as melasma may affect the cheeks, jawline, and forehead. These are believed to be driven by a hormonally stimulated increase in melanin, the substance that gives color to the skin and hair. Many of these spots will fade with time, but some may be permanent.
To help minimize or avoid accentuating these spots, apply sunscreen and wear wide-brimmed hats if you plan to be outdoors. Consider a mineral-based sunscreen, and feel free to ask one of our dermatologists which sunscreen is best for you to use during this time period.
For some women, a vertical, brownish line may form from the rib cage or navel to the lower stomach. Why this pregnancy line forms is unclear, but it may be related to hormone changes. You can’t really prevent it, but it does tend to fade away after pregnancy.
Perhaps the most notorious of the skin changes during pregnancy, stretch marks (or striae) form around the stomach, buttocks, legs, and breasts. In fact, most women develop these small, reddish lines by their third trimester. There is a strong familial tendency toward their development, which seems to be caused in part by changes in elastic tissue during pregnancy.
Striae tend to fade over time, but early intervention may minimize their overall appearance. Our dermatologists can suggest a variety of therapies to reduce their appearance during and after pregnancy.
Acne may develop or become more pronounced during pregnancy.
Although many acne medications cannot be used during pregnancy, there are some that remain safe and effective. Physical modalities, such as light therapy and chemical peels, are also an alternative or complementary option.
Spider Veins and Varicose Veins
Hormonal changes and a larger volume of blood in your body during pregnancy can cause leg swelling and dilated veins, termed varicose veins, to develop on the lower leg. Compression therapy, avoiding prolonged standing, and sleeping on the left side may help alleviate this. Residual veins can be treated with lasers or sclerotherapy (injections).
Hormonal changes, driven by estrogen, can cause tiny red blood vessels, called spider angiomas, to develop on the face, neck, and arms. can cause tiny red veins, known as spider veins, to appear on your face, neck, and arms. Persistent or bothersome lesions may be treated with our vascular lasers.
For most women, nails grown faster and become stronger in pregnancy. In others, the increased rate of growth leads to brittle nails. This tends to return to normal shortly after childbirth.
Hormonal changes typically cause the scalp hair to become thicker and fuller. This is essentially cause by a delay in the hair from cycling into a normal resting phase. After birth, hair often enters this delayed cycle, and noticeable shedding ensues.. This typically resolves within 6 to 8 months, but may persist for up to 15 months after childbirth.
Itching may be caused by a flare of a condition that existed prior to pregnancy, such as psoriasis or eczema. Additionally, there are several rashes that are infrequent though characteristic during pregnancy. Finally, intense itching without outward signs of a rash may be related to changes in liver function in pregnancy, a rare but serious condition that must be evaluated expeditiously. Our dermatologists are extremely familiar with the diagnosis and expert treatment of pregnancy-related dermatoses.
If you are concerned with any skin changes that you have noticed during pregnancy, it will put your mind at ease to speak with one of our caring, experienced dermatologists. Whether offering therapy or important reassurance, we are here to make your pregnancy as comfortable as possible. In the meantime, congratulations on the new addition to your family!