You’ve probably heard about (or experienced) some of the different changes your pregnant body can go through. There are the more well-known ones (like your bump growing, of course), but there are also many different things that can happen, depending on how pregnancy affects your body. One thing that pregnancy can have an unpredictable effect on is your skin.
Like lots of things during pregnancy, skin changes are generally to do with your hormones. So, don’t panic too much if you notice a rash, colour changes, stretch marks, etc. These are all a normal part of the pregnancy journey as you prepare to give birth to your little one! (But always have a chat with your doctor if you’re concerned).
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You may have thought you’d left those zit years behind you (along with low-rise jeans, flip phones, etc. etc.) but pregnancy hormones can actually lead to the return of these breakouts.
An increase in androgen levels can cause your glands to grow and produce an oily substance that clogs pores. This can definitely knock your confidence but, because these hormonal changes only occur during pregnancy, these spots should fade after pregnancy. (This oily substance can also lead to that famous pregnancy glow for some women – it just depends)!
Your initial reaction may be to buy every spot cream on the shelf, or starve your skin of moisture to get rid of the oil, but this can also lead to more irritation. To help with pregnancy acne, you could try to:
- Follow a simple skincare routine; use a mild soap-free cleanser and an oil-free moisturiser and sunscreen
- Always check that any toiletries you use are safe to use during pregnancy
- Avoid scrubbing your skin – be kind and gentle to yourself. This is the same with squeezing your spots!
- Keep your hair clean and up off your face
- Make sure to change your pillowcases and towels regularly
- Eat foods high in zinc and vitamin A
- Drink lots of water (this goes for most things during pregnancy!)
A super common change that you’ll probably see: stretch marks. They affect around 90% of all pregnant women (and are still very common even outside of pregnancy).
They’re thin lines that appear in areas where the skin may stretch quickly (bump, breasts, upper thighs) and they’re completely natural. You can totally wear your tiger stripes with pride, but there are a few things that may be able to help reduce them if you want:
- You should gain some weight during pregnancy, but excessive weight gain can have some negative impacts. It can also affect how your body grows and increase stretch marks. Discuss your ideal weight gain with your doctor, and to figure out the best pregnancy diet and exercise plan for you.
- Keeping your skin healthy and hydrated can also help, so keep those susceptible areas well moisturised.
- If you don’t already, start exfoliating these target areas as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
- Keeping stretch marks out of the sun may help reduce the colour change and how much they show up.
- Massage skin with bio-oil or silica gel which may also improve their appearance.
Many women find that their stretch marks fade a lot after pregnancy, but if they don’t, remember that they’re totally naturally and happen to almost everyone during pregnancy!
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Have you noticed any darker patches of skin on your body? Maybe under your arms, between your thighs, or even just your moles and freckles getting slightly darker? Hyperpigmentation is another big one during pregnancy, that again affects around 90% of pregnant women!
It’s often considered as one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, where skin darkens gradually and then it tends to go away after pregnancy. It’s common under the arms, between the thighs, on areolas and the linea nigra (a vertical line that can appear on your tummy). There is also a specific type called melasma which appears on the face and affects up to 50% of pregnant women.
Always talk to your doctor if you have any worries, but this skin change is caused by your hormones and is completely natural. If you’re looking for ways to reduce it, you can try to:
- Stay out of the sun, similar to stretch marks, to reduce darkening.
- Use plenty of sunscreen, even if it’s not a super sunny day (those rays are still coming through).
- Make sure you’re eating a healthy pregnancy diet with lots of folate from fruits, whole grains and green leafy veg. (Some experts believe there’s a link between skin darkening and a lack of folic acid).
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Visible and varicose veins
As early as 10 weeks, you may start to notice your veins showing up a little bit more. This is actually something pretty special: it’s part of your baby’s support system. As your blood volume increases to carry blood and nutrients to your little one to help them develop, you’ll probably notice more visible veins all over your body!
These should go back to normal once you’ve given birth, and there’s nothing that can really be done about them. They’re just part of the wonderful creation of that tiny human inside you. (Note: they may stick around on your breasts until you finish breastfeeding)
Varicose veins, on the other hand, can cause some irritation or discomfort and you may be able to relieve them. They’re mostly found on the legs (which are working so incredibly hard), and increased hormone levels can also cause blood vessel walls to relax, leading to these veins. If you find you have varicose veins, there’s no need to be alarmed, and there are a few things you can try:
- Try not to stand for long periods of time.
- Sit with your legs up when possible, and avoid crossing them.
- Try compression socks or tights.
- Put a pillow under your feet to lift your legs slightly while you sleep.
- Focus on exercises that can help improve circulation like walking, swimming or other focused workouts.
You can probably guess what the culprit of this is, right? Hormones! Yes, as those hormone levels increase and change, it can lead to your skin becoming more sensitive to things that may not have affected it before.
Your normal shower gel, washing powder or even sunlight can lead to irritation. So keep a look out for any rashes or itchiness and try to pinpoint what may be causing it. If you can’t pinpoint it, some basic steps could include:
- Switch to fragrance free washing powders
- Make sure to use sunscreen when going outside
- Use unscented moisturisers, bath oils, etc. (and avoid long baths)
- Wear loose clothing, stay out of the sun and just generally try to keep cool to avoid heat rashes.
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Humans bodies are absolutely fascinating, and the things that happen during pregnancy can sometimes even go above and beyond current understanding. The unpredictability of this can be worrying, but we hope we’ve helped with some tips and tricks on what to do if you experience any of these skin changes.
Of course, every pregnancy is different and you may experience other changes to these, a combination or none at all! It’s understandable that you may have concerns when there are so many things going on, so always talk to your healthcare professional to double check that everything’s on track, and to give yourself peace of mind.
We’d love to find out if you’ve got any nifty tricks to help with some of these skin changes during pregnancy!