Pregnancy does take a toll on all the organs of the body, and one’s skin also tends to get affected. Here are some common skin changes you might notice in the course of your pregnancy, and why they occur.
Striae Distensae or Stretch marks as we all know are one of the most common skin changes during and post pregnancy. Abount 90% of the females experience stretch marks. Females who are genetically predisposed or those who gain weight fast tend to develop more stretch marks.
- Keep your weight in check
- Exercise regularly,
- Moisturise your skin on a daily basis,
- Do not scratch your stomach
- Start using Anti-stretch mark creams by the 3rd month e.g. Sebamed anti-stretch cream, Luciara cream. Massage on the stomach, inner thighs, and breasts atleast twice a day.
- Early stretch marks can be reduced with the help of fractional lasers, after delivery.
Mealsma/ Cholasma/ Mask of Pregnancy is dark patches on the malar areas of cheeks and forehead, caused by the increase in pigmentation due to hormonal changes.
- Essential to use a sunscreen – SPF 15-20.
- Use an umbrella or a hat when out in sun.
- Use of lightening or depigmenting creams is not advisable during pregnancy. I would recommend seeing a dermatologist after delivery.
Increased hormones cause changes in your skin pigmentation. You will notice that areas with dark pigmentation, such as freckles, moles, nipples, areolas, and labia, can become even darker. These areas may remain dark post delivery or sometimes lighten a little bit. There is nothing that can be done, though if a freckle or a mole looks suspicious, see a dermatologist.
Itching during pregnancy is very common; around 17% of pregnant ladies complain of itching. Due to the stretching of the abdominal skin, the skin does get dry and itchy. If the itching is severe, started in later trimesters, and is associated with nausea, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin; then need to see your doctor. This is a sign of Cholestasis, or impaired function of the liver. It requires antihistaminics and oral medication and normally resolves after delivery.
There is another condition called Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques ( PUPP), in which the pregnant female develops reddish, itchy, raised lesions on the abdomen, sparing the umbilicus. It has no fetal or maternal comorbidity. It resolves with antihistaminics, topical steroids, and usually resolves after delivery.
Varicose veins are bulky bluish veins that usually appear on the legs during pregnancy. This happens because your body is compensating for the extra blood flow that is going to your baby. Varicose veins can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Unfortunately, if you have a family history of Varicose veins, you may be prone to them during your pregnancy. The good news is that you can take measures now to prevent or decrease the symptoms.
- Avoid standing/ sitting for long periods of time.
- Walk as much as possible to help the blood return to your heart.
- Always prop your feet up on a stool when sitting.
- Wear support stockings.
- Get enough vitamin C (this helps keeps your veins healthy and elastic).
- Sit with your legs higher than your head for at least half an hour a day.
- Exercise regularly and avoid weight gain.
The extra hormones during pregnancy tend to activate the oil glands more, which lead to more breakouts. You should keep a strict cleansing routine. Cleanse your face every night and every morning. Washing your face more than this can cause your skin to become dry. You should use a mild cleanser like Cetaphil cleansing lotion. Retinoids are to be avoided, both topically and orally in pregnancy. Anti-acne medication like Benzoyl Peroxide, Azelaic Acid creams and gels are safe during this time.
Skin tags are the overgrowth of skin, like small tags due to an increase in weight; mostly on the neck, axilla, and thighs. They are harmless, not contagious, and do tend to decrease once you are back in shape. If they still persist, they can be removed by electrocautery.
Linea nigra is the dark line that runs from your navel to your pubic bone. This is a line that may have always been there, but you may have never noticed it before because it was a light color. During pregnancy, this line darkens. This is possibly caused by the imbalance in hormones. It usually appears around the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy.