Are you blooming? Do you have that radiant glow associated with pregnancy? Your skin is the biggest organ of your body and just as you’ll notice changes in other areas, the hormonal fluctuations sustaining your pregnancy will cause some changes to your skin – some good, some not so good!
There is no way of predicting how a woman’s skin will change in pregnancy. Some women find that their skin improves and becomes less dry or less oily, or that they get fewer spots. Others find that it worsens and they get more spots, or their skin becomes oilier or dryer.
The extra blood in your circulation can make you look radiant and glowing, though it can also make you look permanently flushed. Sometimes the increased blood flow to your skin causes small red spots (spider veins) on your face, upper body and arms.
The extra fluid that you retain may make your face look a little plumper, which will help smooth out any lines and wrinkles that you have, though on the other hand it may make your face look puffy or chubbier than you would like.
Around 90 per cent of pregnant women experience changes in their skin pigmentation. Quite early on (from around 3 to 4 months), you may notice that the area round your nipples gets darker, and that a brown line starts to appear down the centre of your tummy (linea nigra). If you have freckles or moles or a birthmark, these may get darker, too.
Some women develop brown patches on their face as well. These are made worse by being exposed to the sun. All these pigmentation changes usually disappear or fade after the baby has been born.
There is also a condition called melasma (also known chloasma) where brown, clearly defined patches develop on the face, typically on the cheekbones and forehead. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy’. Women with darker complections are the most prone to this condition and it tends to become more pronounced with subsequent pregnancies. The areas of increased pigmentation will probably fade within a few months after delivery and your skin should return to its normal shade, although in some women the changes never completely disappear.
Just as you may have experienced acne as a teenager going through puberty, those annoying pregnancy hormones may cause acne during your pregnancy too, particularly in the first 3 months.
If you do have a breakout of spots, do make sure that you check with your midwife or GP as medications you may have used in the past may not be safe.
The increased blood supply to the skin, coupled with the stretching as your tummy grows can lead to nasty itching. It’s a good idea to wear loose clothes and natural rather than synthetic materials. You may also find that a cool bath, and plenty of moisturiser helps.
In more extreme cases, some women develop Obstetric Cholestasis (or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy – ICP). This is a potentially serious liver disorder associated with pregnancy caused by a build up of bile salts in your body. Whilst there’s no cure, it will go once the baby is born. OC tends to run in families and is more common in women of Pakistani or Indian origin. If you’ve had it before, unfortunately you’re likely to suffer in future pregnancies too.
Once diagnosed, your doctor will keep an eye on your liver function with regular blood tests. Calamine lotion may soothe the itching and you might be offered a vitamin K supplement, as your absorption of vitamin K may be affected by the condition.
There are some pregnancy related rashes that can also cause itching. As with OC, they will usually disappear after the birth, but can be quite uncomfortable:
- pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) – a common skin condition that causes itchy, red, raised bumps that appear on the thighs and abdomen (tummy). This occurs in around 1 in 150 pregnancies, common in first time mums and multiple pregnancies.
- prurigo gestationis – a skin rash that appears as red, itchy dots and mainly affects the arms, legs and torso
Your tummy is going to grow, that’s a fact and whether or not your skin can keep up with this rapid growth is something that you can’t really control. Depending on your skin type, whether you had stretch marks in puberty and your family history, you may or may not get them severely. Be prepared though, around 8/10 women do get stretch marks in pregnancy so the odds are stacked against you!!