Pregnancy Skin Changes
PREGNANCY HEALTH: During your pregnancy, you may notice various alterations in your skin tone, condition and colouring.
Skin changes are common in pregnancy and are due to the effects of hormones, increased blood circulating in your body and your expanding body as your baby grows.
Changes can include deepening of skin pigmentation, particularly in already darkened areas such as the nipples, birthmarks, moles and freckles; lighter or darker patches appearing on the face (known as chloasma or ‘mask of pregnancy’); appearance of a dark line down the centre of the abdomen (linea nigra); increased oiliness, dryness (making fine lines and wrinkles more prominent) or spots; an improved, healthier complexion; or the presence of tiny red marks known as spider naevi due to dilated blood vessels. Any alterations in skin pigmentation tend to fade after giving birth, although your nipples may stay darker. If you find pigmentation changes particularly bothersome, you may want to use make-up to camouflage them. You should also use a sunblock when exposed to the sun as you can tan more easily during pregnancy which, in turn, can make enhanced skin pigmentation appear even more pronounced.
Later during pregnancy, as your baby gets bigger or if your weight gain is more than average, you may notice the appearance of stretchmarks, especially around your breast area, abdomen and the tops of your legs. Stretchmarks are usually pink or purplish, but after giving birth they tend to become silvery white streaks and less obvious. Although various products are currently available to prevent stretchmarks, there is no guarantee that they will help.
Some women also suffer from mild itching of the skin around their abdomen later in pregnancy as it stretches. Itching may be relieved by applying a soothing cream to the affected area or by wearing loose clothing. Itching which is severe or also involves the hands and feet may be a sign of liver complications and should be reported to your doctor.
Additionally, some women develop a rash in the folds of their skin, such as in the groin area or under the breasts, due to excess weight gain or increased perspiration. Controlling your weight, wearing a support bra and keeping the affected area clean and dry may help in such situations. Women may find that wearing loose clothing and applying a soothing lotion such as calamine may offer some relief.
If, however, you have prolonged general itching, together with a rash or broken skin, contact your healthcare professional. Likewise, if you suffer from severe local itching on your limbs and body in late pregnancy, call your healthcare professional without delay as this may be a sign of a rare, but potentially serious, liver condition known as obstetric cholestasis.
This disorder can cause premature labour, stillbirth, increased risk of bleeding during delivery or serious health problems for your baby. It can be diagnosed with a blood test.