Pregnancy is a life-altering event in more ways than one. Not only will your daily habits, social life, and sleeping patterns begin to change during these nine months -- your skin will undergo changes as well. As the pregnancy develops in the first two trimesters, the body rapidly increases its production of hormones called androgens, blood volume spikes, the skin around the abdomen is forced to expand. All of these sudden shifts take a toll on the mind, body, and skin.
Of course, no two pregnant people will experience the exact same levels and types of skin changes. In fact, some might barely notice any changes to their skin at all, while others face the gamut of potential pregnancy developments. As always, it’s best to prepare yourself for all possibilities. To that end, let’s go over what you can expect from your skin during pregnancy, even if you end up avoiding some or all of these changes.
Acne during pregnancy isn’t inevitable, but it’s quite common. The main culprit here is the aforementioned androgens. These hormones produce excess sebum (bodily oils), which can clog pores and create whiteheads and blackheads. Plus, the additional stress brought on by pregnancy can make acne worse. Those who breakout during pregnancy can treat their acne, but only under the direction of their dermatologist. This is because certain standard acne medications (i.e. isotretinoin and retinoids) may be risky for pregnant people to take.
Varicose veins describe dark, visible veins often found in the legs. Smaller varicose veins, also known as spider veins, often coincide with larger varicose veins. These features occur when blood flow becomes partially restricted and blood collects in the veins, engorging them. This condition is common during pregnancy for multiple reasons.
First, the additional weight around the abdomen exerts pressure on the veins underneath it. Additionally, this extra weight makes it harder for pregnant individuals to walk and otherwise get active in order to promote blood flow. Some doctors believe hormonal activity may also contribute to varicose and spider veins. Fortunately, these veins tend to go away between 3 to 12 months after delivery. And if they stick around, they can be treated and/or removed in various ways.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 90% of pregnant people experience stretch marks during and/or after their pregnancy, and it should be no surprise. Skin is elastic but only to a point; whenever the skin is forced to rapidly expand beyond that point, its texture changes, resulting in these stretch marks. Over time, these marks usually fade, sometimes completely. Your dermatologist may recommend applying lotions with vitamin E and alpha-hydroxy acids to prevent or mitigate stretch marks.
Though it may seem odd, parts of your skin may even change color during pregnancy. Once again, hormonal activity is to blame for this type of skin change, known as melasma (or chloasma). This condition is characterized by the appearance of brownish-gray patches on the skin, most commonly the face. Like stretch marks and varicose veins, these pigmentation changes usually go away on their own after pregnancy, but certain topical medications may help fade them faster.
Stretch marks aren’t the only artifact of the expansion of your skin; it’s also common for pregnant bellies to break out in rashes and hives. Stretched skin tends to lose moisture and get dry in the process, so irritation and itchiness are normal outcomes, especially during the first two trimesters. That said, later in the pregnancy, if you encounter severe skin discomfort accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, or fatigue, see your doctor, as these signs may point to a more severe illness like cholestasis.
Your hair is directly related to (and, of course, connected to) your skin. And much like your skin, your hair is also affected by hormonal changes in your body, namely changes in estrogen levels. During pregnancy, increased hormonal activity typically promotes hair growth beyond normal levels. After delivery, though, pregnancy hair loss (Telogen effluvium) may occur as estrogen levels revert back to their previous state and your body sheds its excess hair. Between 40 and 50% of pregnant individuals experience these hair changes, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Pregnancy can take a toll on the body in many ways. The more prepared you are for what might happen during this turbulent journey, the better off you’ll be. The experts at Premier Dermatology Partners are happy to give you more advice, information, and resources regarding skincare during pregnancy. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.