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Apr 2, 2008

Pregnant skin

There are many changes that occur in the body during pregnancy.

YOU may hear some horror stories about how your skin will change during pregnancy. Some of these changes, such as stretch marks, are inevitable in everyone, while some women will be fortunate to escape certain problems.

These changes occur because your hormone levels increase during pregnancy. Not only does oestrogen increase, but so does the melanocyte-stimulating hormone, a hormone that stimulates the cells controlling skin pigmentation.

Although these changes are not harmful to you or your baby, it can be distressing to see your skin becoming darker, stretched or pimply. But don’t worry – these problems will disappear a few months after you deliver.

In the meantime, it helps to know what’s in store for you so that you do not get a rude shock when you look in the mirror.

They say that pregnant women glow – this is not just a figure of speech. During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to support your baby. Because there are many blood vessels just under the skin’s surface, your skin will appear flushed due to the increased blood volume.

Have you heard of the “mask of pregnancy”, where a pregnant woman’s face suddenly appears covered with brownish or yellowish patches (resembling a mask)? Don’t panic – this doesn’t happen to all women, nor is it permanent.

Medically known as melasma, this condition happens because the hormones in your body stimulate the melanin cells in your skin to produce more pigmentation. However, this pigmentation is not uniform, so you end up with uneven patches, usually on the forehead, upper cheeks, nose, upper lip or chin.

Pimples can be a problem for some pregnant women, especially during the first trimester.
You can’t control your hormone levels at this point, but you can protect yourself from ultraviolet light so as to reduce the pigmentation. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear hats under the sunlight.

Other areas on your skin that are already heavily coloured may become darker, such as your nipples, areola, armpits and genitals. Moles, freckles and birthmarks may become bigger and darker.

New moles may appear, although you should check with your doctor if the moles appear abnormally raised, dark or have irregular borders.

A dark belly line (linea nigra) may appear from the lower chest through the navel to the pubic area. This line will also disappear after the baby is born.

As I mentioned earlier, most of these changes will disappear a few months after your baby is born. You do not have to do anything drastic, such as using bleaching creams.

Stretch marks are the bane of all pregnant women. As your stomach, breasts, buttocks and hips enlarge for baby, the elastic tissue in your skin will eventually break.

There are creams and lotions that you can apply, but the truth is, there is nothing that can completely prevent stretch marks. And unlike some of the other skin changes, these lines won’t go away so quickly after childbirth, although they will eventually fade and become less noticeable.


An itch is a terrible thing. During pregnancy, your skin may become dry and flaky, causing it to itch. You may also get a prickly heat rash because you are perspiring more and your skin may be rubbing against itself, especially where the stomach rubs against the top of the pubic area and the inner thighs rub against each other.

Some pregnant women get intensely itchy, red bumps on their abdomen, thighs, arms and buttocks. This condition has a long name: pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPP).

It usually appears around week 34 and disappears shortly after delivery. Corticosteroid creams, prescribed by your doctor, may offer relief.

There are other skin conditions that can occur during pregnancy and cause intense itching, such as papular dermatitis of pregnancy, prurigo gestationis, herpes gestationis, and impetigo herpetiformis. Any skin changes, rashes or itching that seem abnormal should be brought up with your doctor, as some conditions that cause rashes are dangerous to you and your baby.

Pimples can be a problem for some pregnant women, especially during the first trimester. However, your skin will probably clear up after the third month, or after you give birth.

Spider veins and more

As I mentioned earlier, your blood circulation will increase during pregnancy. One of the consequences of this is spider veins, so called because the tiny, squiggly red blood vessels under your skin (resembling spider webs) branch out and become more visible.

Spider veins are most common on the face, neck and arms. If they do not go away on their own after delivery, you can seek advice from a dermatologist on how to remove them. You may find that a little make-up can disguise the problem too.

The veins in your legs may also look different, as they become more enlarged and seem to protrude through the skin. These are called varicose veins and, unlike the other skin changes of pregnancy, may not disappear completely after pregnancy. If you are very troubled by them, you can ask your doctor for ways to treat them.

You may also notice your palms and soles turning pink or red. There is nothing harmful about this, and it will probably disappear after delivery.

Skin tags
Don’t be overly alarmed if you find tiny bumps or polyps under your arms, between your neck folds, or under your bra lines. These are skin tags, caused by hyperactive growth of a layer of skin in areas where your skin rubs together or against clothing.

You can wait for them to disappear after delivery, or talk to your dermatologist about having them removed.

Most of the changes described in this article are normal and to be expected during pregnancy. As always, discuss any changes with your doctor to put your mind at ease.

In the meantime, try not to worry too much about the way your skin looks. Rest assured that most of these changes are temporary!

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Anonymous said...

its really great post among i have seen about pregnant womens health... thanks for sharing such a good information.
Internal medicine

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