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The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide to Skin: What to Expect From Your Skin When You're Expecting...

You’ve probably heard about (or experienced) some of the different changes your body can go through during pregnancy, but you may not have heard about the unpredictable effect that pregnancy can have on 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).

To help you feel informed and prepare, here is everything you need to know about the changes your skin could go through during pregnancy and how to manage them…

Pregnant lady moisturising her bump

Image by roungroat on Rawpixel

Pregnancy Acne...

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 causing acne during pregnancy. Don’t let this knock your confidence, you are growing a whole new person! Moreover, because these hormonal changes only occur while you are pregnant, any pregnancy acne you develop should fade after pregnancy. (This oily substance can also lead to that famous pregnancy glow for some women – every body is different)!

Your initial reaction to pregnancy acne 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 manage 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!)

Hyperpigmentation during pregnancy (skin colour changes)

 

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 during pregnancy is another common pregnancy skin change that again affects around 90% of pregnant women!

Skin gradually darkening is often considered as one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and it tends to go away after birth. Hyperpigmentation during pregnancy is 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 of pregnancy skin colour change 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 pregnancy 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).

A super common change that you’ll probably see happen to your skin during pregnancy is stretch marks. In fact, they affect around 90% of all pregnant women (and are still very common even outside of pregnancy), so if you develop stretch marks in your pregnancy, you are far from alone!

Stretch marks are 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 stretch marks in pregnancy if you want:

  • Keeping your pregnancy skin healthy and hydrated can really help avoid stretch marks, so keep those susceptible areas (bump, breasts, upper thighs) well moisturised - bio oil and silica gel are tried and tested pregnancy skin care moisturizing products that have been helping pregnant people to manage stretch marks for decades!
  • If you don’t already, start exfoliating these target areas of pregnancy skin as soon as you know you’ve got a little one on the way.
  • Keeping your skin out of the sun may help reduce the colour change and how much stretch marks show up during pregnancy and after.
  • Weight gain during pregnancy is completely natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but excessive weight gain can have some negative impacts and increase stretch marks. Discuss your ideal weight gain with your doctor to figure out the best pregnancy nutrition and exercise plan for you.

Many women find that the stretch marks developed in pregnancy fade a lot after giving birth, but if they don’t, remember that they won’t impact you or your baby’s health and happen to almost everyone during pregnancy!

Pregnant lady standing in front of bright light

Photo by Arren Mills on Unsplash

Hyperpigmentation during pregnancy (skin colour changes)

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 during pregnancy is another common pregnancy skin change that again affects around 90% of pregnant women!

Skin gradually darkening is often considered as one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and it tends to go away after birth. Hyperpigmentation during pregnancy is 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 of pregnancy skin colour change 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 pregnancy 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).

Pregnant lady holding her bump with linea nigra

Photo by redgular on Pixabay

Visible and varicose veins during pregnancy

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 during pregnancy, 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 develop varicose veins during pregnancy, 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.

Sensitive skin during pregnancy

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 during pregnancy to things that may not have affected it before.

Your normal shower gel, washing powder or even sunlight can irritate your pregnancy skin. So keep a lookout 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.

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 pregnancy skin changes.

 

Itching during pregnancy

Itching is common in pregnancy with up to 1-in-5 women being affected by it. You can blame those pesky hormones again for the itching. In addition, stretching of the skin around your tummy and along with dry skin could also lead to itching. As mentioned above, your skin could become more sensitive to your usual products like perfumes, deodorant, detergents, synthetic clothes etc., which can cause itching. In addition, if you have any pre-existing skin conditions that might flare up. 

However, itching can also be a sign of pregnancy related conditions. Itching without a rash can be caused by:

  • Obstetric Cholestasis: Usually starts 28 weeks onwards, more common in soles & palms, typically gets worse at night. You might also have jaundice, darker urine and pale stools. 
  • Other reasons unrelated to pregnancy: eczema, insect bites, urticaria, thyroid problems, Iron deficiency anaemia, reaction to drugs, kidney or liver problems.

For itching with a rash: 

  • Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy: Rash which initially appears as raised areas of skin later forming plaques on the abdomen along the stretch marks; and could spread to thighs and buttocks
  • Atopic eruption of pregnancy: Usually occurs if you have a history of atopic eczema with red to brown raised patches on face, neck, top of the chest and inside of your arms & legs. It could turn into reddish raised plaques and itchy bumps.
  • Pemphigoid gestationis: Appears as reddish itchy raised plaques on the tummy around the umbilicus (can spread to other parts) and later forms blisters

Helping yourself:

  • Wear loose fitting clothes ideally from natural materials like cotton to avoid them rubbing against skin
  • Avoid alcohol or too spicy food as anything that will cause more blood to flow to your skin could increase the itching
  • Avoid any deodorant, detergents etc that might be irritating the skin
  • Keep your house cool
  • Keep your nails short so that you don’t damage your skin due to itching
  • Cool shower followed by using some moisture 
  • Avoid frequent and/orlong baths in hot bath with bubbles, soap etc as washing itself can make your skin dry
  • If the itching is severe and/or with signs of any of the other conditions mentioned above, then speak to your midwife or doctor for them to investigate further and offer the right treatment.

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! DM us @bluebellfamily or contact us here.

Pregnant lady laying down and holding bump

Image by Karolina  / Kaboompics on Rawpixel