Skin Changes During Pregnancy
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During the pregnancy process many changes in a woman's skin condition may occur. This article is designed to explain what these skin conditions are and how you can deal with them.
Itchy red raised patches may develop during the second and third trimester. This condition is called Purity Urticarial Papules & Plaques, dubbed PUPP. Around 1% of women experience this condition which nearly always disappears shortly after the delivery of the baby. The itching starts on the bump and then spreads outwards on the body until it reaches the hands and feet. Using Aqueous cream can soothe your skin, but your doctor may prescribe a stronger cream to provide relief.
Itching may be experienced at the end of the pregnancy, and a good scratch can relieve this irritation. The itchiness is caused by dry, flaky skin, which itself is caused by the stretching of the skin to adapt to body growth. The itchiness is usually situated on the area of skin stretched over the tummy and also on the hips and thighs.
Heat rash is related to a combination of conditions. Dampness from excessive perspiration together with an already overheated body can cause this rash. The most common area affected is between and beneath the breast, in the area where the bulge of the lower tummy rubs against the top of the public area and on the top of the thighs.
Tiny polyps may develop on some pregnant women called skin tags. These tags appear in the area where skin rubs on clothing or skin rubs together. The skin tags may develop on the arms, between the fold of the neck and under the bra line on the chest. The tags are caused by hyperactive growth of a superficial layer of skin. They will disappear a few months after delivery but when necessary can be disposed of quite easily and painlessly.
Increased blood volume causes these tiny squiggly red or purple caterpillar lines to appear below the surface of the skin. The spider veins can resemble a small spider's web. The web of veins can pop out on the face area or on the white part of the eyeballs. During delivery, an intense bout of pushing can break tiny blood vessels known as Nevi. Nevi take longer to clear up than many other skin conditions during pregnancy; however, spider veins on the legs or body may not go away on their own. A dermatologist can remove the veins using an injection if really necessary.
Red palms and soles of feet
The bottom of the feet as well as the palms may itch during pregnancy and take on a reddish appearance. This condition is called 'Palmar Erythema' and is nothing more than a curiosity of pregnancy.
Dark areas become darker
Brown spots or birthmarks may become darker during pregnancy. Moles and freckles may also become bigger. The areola and nipples of the breast may become a lot darker, but unlike certain areas of skin which return to the normal colour after pregnancy the areola will remain darker. However, a doctor or dermatologist should be consulted if a mole seems particularly raised, dark or has irregular borders.
The majority of women have a faint white line, called 'Linea Alba' running from the navel to the centre of the public bone. This line is barely visible prior to pregnancy and many may not even be aware the line is there. Sometimes, during the second term of pregnancy a 'Linea Alba' becomes a 'Linea Nigra', a dark line that is more noticeable. The Linea Nigra is darker in dark skinned women but disappears several months after delivery.
A break out of pimples during pregnancy is rarely as severe as break outs experienced during adolescence but teenage cleaning rituals can help improve the situation. The bumps and pimples will subside shortly after the delivery of the baby. It is recommended not to use abrasive scrubs or exfoliates which would only irritate the condition as the pregnant skin is very sensitive. Milder oat/wheat based facial scrubs are recommended and can help unblock oily pores. Women with birth defects can use anti-acne prescription drugs such as Accutane and Retin-A.
The pregnancy mask
During the second trimester a brownish or yellowish pattern called Chlosma can appear anywhere on the face. The effect is seen most commonly on the forehead, upper cheeks, nose and chin area. The hormones Estrogen and Progesterone stimulate melanin cells in the skin to produce extra pigment. This can sometimes make the skin appear blotchy. Darker skinned woman and brunettes may notice darkened circles resembling eye shadow around their eyes. Chlosma cannot be prevented but can be minimised by limiting the exposure to ultraviolet light - sunlight will only stimulate the melanin production.
The pregnancy glow
The increased volume of blood causes the cheeks to take on a blush because many of the blood vessels are just below the surface of the skin. Because of this redness, the increased secretion of the oil glands give the skin a sheen. The flushed face experienced by many pregnant women is similar to having a flushed face when excited, crying, or doing anything that increases the heart rate, which pregnancy does constantly.
During the 3rd trimester, a woman's eyelids and face may become puffy. This usually occurs in a morning. This condition is related to the increased blood circulation and is harmless. Mothers should contact the health care assistant should the puffiness run alongside weight gain to rule out other potential problems.
As the breast and abdomen grow, most women develop stretch marks across the belly and breast area. These marks are small, depressed streaks of different textured skin. The marks can be pink in colour, reddish brown or dark brown depending on the skin colour and can also appear on the bum, thigh, or hips. The marks are caused by tiny tears in the tissue that lies below the skin as the baby grows - this helps the skin stretch to accommodate the child. There is no way to prevent the stretch marks apart from application of certain creams to lubricate and soften the skin. If you are concerned over stretch marks, visit our article on how to reduce the likelihood of getting these. After birth, the stretch marks will fade considerably but usually do not disappear completely.
The body will go through major changes during pregnancy and the cause of skin changes are related to hormone levels. Most of these changes disappear shortly after delivery.