Sleep, eating habits, the shape of your body, your mood, hair – pregnancy changes every single element of your body. And that includes your skin too.
While the pregnancy glow is true for some expectant mothers, others find their pregnancy brings out some less desirable skin traits.
Leading dermatologist, Dr Daniel Glass from The Dermatology Clinic London sheds light on some common pregnancy-related skin issues.
Why? Blood vessel changes during pregnancy have been linked to variations in levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which in turn can influence your skin. Common issues resulting from this include small visible blood vessels, known as spider naevi, and Palmar erythema, a redness on the palms which occurs in up to 70% of pregnant women. Both conditions will generally resolve themselves once your baby has been born.
Why? This enlargement of the veins typically occurs in your legs as the increased pressure in the pelvis area makes it harder for blood to return to the rest of the body. At the same time, the pregnancy hormone progesterone will cause your vessel walls to relax allowing them to swell and become more pronounced. Varicose veins often improve within three to four months after you have given birth, although sometimes it can take a little longer. However, the more pregnancies you have, the more likely these veins will require medical intervention to improve.
Why? Hormone levels are constantly changing, both during and after your pregnancy. An increase in the hormones androgen can cause the glands in your skin to produce more sebum; making your skin look and feel greasier and can lead to acne. Medical treatment for acne during pregnancy can be tricky as many topical creams and drugs cannot be used but if acne becomes a major issue during pregnancy seek expert advice from your dermatologist.
Why? This darkening of the skin is often one of the first signs of pregnancy and is related to increased levels of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones that stimulate pigment cells. Those suffering from this condition will notice that areas that are already pigmented such as the nipples and abdomen will become darker during their pregnancy, but this will generally settle down after delivery.
Up to 70% of women will suffer from dark areas of skin on their face during pregnancy because of Melasma, especially those of dark complexion. These dark spots will commonly appear on your forehead and cheeks, due to increased hormone related pigmentation. To minimise symptoms, try to avoid the sun as it can cause the patches to darken further and ensure you wear a high protection sun cream if exposed to sunlight. These areas often fade once your hormone levels have returned to normal after pregnancy, but occasionally persist and need treatment.
Why? Itchy skin occurs in up to a fifth of all pregnant women. Most often it is due to an exacerbation of an underlying skin disorder, such as eczema or psoriasis. A smaller number of women experience intense itching without obvious cause, which is called pruritus gravidarum.
A small percentage of women will suffer from severe itching all over their body, especially on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet as a result of a relatively uncommon condition called obstetric cholestasis (OC). If this occurs, seek medical advice from your GP, especially if your rash or itching is severe or lasts longer than a couple of days.