As any pregnant woman will probably attest, hormones inflict havoc on skin during and after pregnancy. You’ll be happy to know that most of these skin conditions will clear up post-delivery, and there are treatments available during pregnancy that are safe to use.
Let’s go through some of the most common skin changes and what you can expect.
Melasma is also referred to as pregnancy mask. This skin condition manifests as brown patches on the face, often around the cheeks, nose, and forehead areas. This is a very common condition, in fact the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says up to 70 percent of pregnant women develop melasma.
Essentially, your pigmentation levels respond to a change in your hormone levels by making parts of your face darker. Melasma will not affect your baby, and in most cases, it fades a few months after delivery. If it doesn't, talk to your dermatologist. He or she might be able to recommend treatment for the pigmentation.
Even if you've never had acne in your life, it is extremely common during pregnancy due to the surge in hormone levels your body is trying to process. To control acne during your pregnancy, make sure you stick to a strict skincare regimen. Wash your face twice a day with a cleanser recommended for your skin type by your dermatologist. Keep your hair off your face and opt for oil-free cosmetics to keep oil off your skin. Drinking lots of water, moisturizing, and toning your skin are also important parts of this regimen. If following a skincare routine isn't helping with your acne, your dermatologist might recommend an over-the-counter product that contains benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid. Be sure you check with your doctor before putting anything on your skin.
Of all skincare issues that moms-to-be come to me upset about, stretch marks seem to be the top worry. These occur when your belly grows to make room for your baby. In fact, by the third trimester most pregnant women have stretch marks on their abdomen, buttocks, thighs, and often breasts. The good news is most stretch marks fade after your baby's delivery, but it’s possible some may never disappear completely.
You're probably familiar with the term varicose veins, but in case you're not, it describes a medical condition wherein the veins, typically in your lower extremities, are swollen and darker blue than normal. During pregnancy, varicose veins form because the pressure of your uterus can actually decrease the flow of blood from your lower body. This can cause the veins in your legs to become swollen, sore, and darker, usually blue.
There are some things you can do to minimize your chances of having varicose veins. Keeping active is a great way to avoid them. Moving around will help your blood flow, so try walking, swimming, or riding a bike as often as you can, as long as it's okay with your doctor. Avoid sitting with your legs crossed for long periods and keep your feet up on a couch or footstool as often as possible. It's also a good idea to drink lots of water. Not only will this help in the prevention of varicose veins, but it's great for your body. It can help reduce blood pressure, keep you from swelling, and keep you from becoming dehydrated, which is another side effect of pregnancy.
Dr. Christina Frome is a board-certified OB/GYN at Kelsey-Seybold’s The Woodlands Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health and at the Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. Her medical interests include general obstetrics, menopausal health and minimally invasive gynecologic surgery including certification in the use of the da Vinci robot.