Skin Changes During Pregnancy

November 9, 2010

Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy and these can include changes to your skin. In most cases skin changes during pregnancy are not dangerous and pose no health problems to you or your developing baby. Still, it's important to check with your physician or midwife if you notice any unusual skin discoloration. Skin discoloration can be a sign of another condition unrelated to pregnancy, like skin cancer, so it's always better to be cautious when noticing a change in your skin pigment. It's especially important to visit your healthcare provider if you notice the pigmentation change is accompanied by pain, irritation, a rash, itchiness, pain or redness. Inflamed or blistered skin should be checked out immediately and so should any change in the color or size of a mole.

Linea Nigra

This is the medical term for the dark line you may notice running up your tummy. It's vertical, less than half an inch wide and appears in the middle of your stomach underneath the navel and often crossing the navel. A linea nigra will typically start to show up around the second trimester as your stomach muscles stretch and slightly separate to accommodate your growing baby. The pigment line usually fades within a month or two of delivery. Sometimes gently exfoliating will remove any dry skin and help the line disappear sooner.

Chloasma: Dark Spots

This condition creates brown patches of darker skin on the cheeks, neck and forehead on light skinned women. Darker skinned women get lighter patches. Chloasma is sometimes referred to as the mask of pregnancy and is caused by the increased production of melanin. Melanin is the hormone that causes the skin to darken in reaction to ultraviolet light.

Women with chloasma should protect their skin from sunlight since exposure to ultraviolet rays can make the patches more obvious. The patches fade within three months after giving birth. There's nothing you can do to avoid get the patches, but a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 and wearing a hat will reduce the chance of the patches becoming more prominent. The patches can be hidden by blending them with a tinted foundation.

Spider Veins

These tiny clusters of broken small blood vessels are caused by the increased circulation of blood putting additional pressure on the capillaries. Some women are more prone to getting them. Wear support hosiery to reduce getting them in your legs. Try not to stand in one spot for extended periods of time. Protect your face from extreme cold and heat to reduce the chance of developing them. Most spider veins will fade or completely disappear after delivery when your hormone levels return to normal.

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks appear on the stomach, breasts and thighs as higher hormone levels make your skin thinner than usual and more prone to damage as it gets stretched by regular pregnancy weight gain. They're usually reddish or brownish, depending on your skin color, and become lighter than the surrounding skin after quite some time after pregnancy. Stretch marks can't be avoided but creams can help ease the itching and sometimes make your skin slightly more elastic so the marks aren't as prominent.

Obstetric Cholestasis

This is intense itching of the hands and feet. It's not a common condition and only affects one pregnancy in 1,000. Symptoms appear in the third trimester and clear up a couple of weeks after delivery. Sometimes this intense itching can be a sign of a rare pregnancy-related liver disorder. Left undiagnosed obstetric cholestasis can lead to premature birth, excessive bleeding or (rarely) stillbirth. Treatment involves close monitoring, antihistamines or induction if you're over 37 weeks.

 

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