After a good swim in the ocean my hands became extremely dry, made me think of my pregnancy days and how I loved that glowing pregnancy skin. Don’t get the wrong idea though, after giving birth to three beautiful boys my whole body has transformed and with that gorgeous pregnancy glow, like many other moms, I also inherited some not so pretty symptoms of pregnancy on my skin. The hormones that you produce not just make your skin glow, but it changes some areas to a slightly darker shade and some areas get small bumps or acne. These stretch marks, skin tags and other discolorations on your skin tell you that you are in fact changing in many significant ways than you thought. Knowing about these skin changes will help you take care of yourself better. Some skin conditions last much longer than you expected and it is always good to know how to take care of your skin even after the pregnancy. Remember to always keep the baby’s health and well being a priority over anything else. Read and learn about the common skin changes and talk to your physician about any skin changes that seem unusual. Researchers all over the world agree most of these pregnancy skin changes will return to normal after the baby is born.
The skin changes during pregnancy, good and bad, are usually categorized into three groups; pre-existing, hormone-related and pregnancy-specific. You might need new medications or might have to avoid some medications that you used to take before pregnancy. Some skin medications that you used before pregnancy may not be safe for your growing baby and make sure to talk to your physician about the skin related side effects of any medication you are taking and which medication you should stay away from during these few months.
According to researcher Rita V. Vora, more than 90% of the pregnant women show significant skin changes that may have great impact on the mother’s life. Hair and nail changes, pigmentary changes and vascular changes can be caused by the increase of a variety of proteins and hormones by the feto-placental units. Increased activity of Pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands due to pregnancy can also cause these types of skin changes.
Here are some of the common skin conditions of pregnancy.
During my first pregnancy, I recognized this distinct dark straight line on my pregnant belly that got darker everyday throughout the third trimester. It was about 12 inches long from top to bottom. This is called Linea nigra; is usually noticed in the second trimester. From the first trimester, you will notice the increased pigmentation in areas that are already pigmented like nipples, areola and genital areas. This is usually caused by increased release of melanin by Eastrogen into melanocytes combined with progesterone’s activity on epidermal and dermal macrophages. Basically, your skin will look darker in some areas including some on your face; the pregnancy mask.
Hair and Nail:
Changes to hair and nail usually return to normal about 3-12 months after pregnancy. Increased shedding of hair and brittle nails are common during pregnancy and good care of both will help the return to normal process much easier.
Spider veins or spider angiomas are reddish elevations on the skin caused by the increased amount of vascular growth factors released during pregnancy.
Increased sebaceous function in third trimester can cause acne. Acne can be developed during pregnancy even if you didn’t have them before. This is categorized as a glandular change; an increase of eccrine gland function. Good hygienic practices like washing face with lukewarm water, not touching acne, can help reduce the condition.
Good news on this, about 40-63% of psoriasis patients will see a clearing up of the condition due to pregnancy. Only a 14% of the patients show the condition to worsen. Psoriatic arthritis however has been reported to worsen due to pregnancy.
AEP – Atopic Eruption of Pregnancy:
A class of pregnancy related skin conditions that include eczema, Prurigo and pruritic folliculitis. Researchers found that 50% of pregnant women are affected with these pregnancy specific dermatoses. It has been noticed that a family history of AEP or increased level of IgG increase the possibility of AEP occurrence in a pregnant woman, and as can be expected, the baby might develop AEP later in their life.
These are only a few of the common skin changes during pregnancy. In a 1994 study done with 200 participants, researcher Vaughan Jones concludes that in all cases studied, there were no adverse effects either on maternal or fetal outcomes due to the pregnancy dermatosis, which again is good news. Almost all researchers point out the importance of correct diagnosis before taking any medication for skin conditions. As in most cases, least amount of medication during pregnancy protects the fetus from abnormal health conditions. Most physicians recommend therapy and management of the conditions to help deal with the stress resulted by changes to the skin. More conservative treatments like topical emollients and antihistamines are usually advised during pregnancy. Other researchers have also mentioned finding out more about your family history of pregnancy related skin changes is beneficial to your physician in determining the specific condition and treatment. Enjoy the glow, accept the changes, your body is going through an amazing transformation and you are in the process of creating another human being!!!
Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women – as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.