What your skin should expect when you’re expecting – . Health Blog

Are you pregnant or do you think you might get pregnant? You are likely to be prepared for morning sickness, weight gain, and an expanding stomach. But did you know that your skin can also experience a multitude of changes if you expect them to? These changes are due to normal changes in hormones that occur during pregnancy. Rest assured, most skin conditions that develop or worsen during pregnancy are benign and get better after delivery.

Darkening of the skin

A large majority of women experience darkening of their skin due to hormone shifts that occur during pregnancy. You may notice that the areas around your thighs, genitals, neck, armpits, and nipples darken. Many women also develop linea nigra, a dark line between the belly button and pubic bone. It's also not uncommon for women to experience darkening of their pre-existing moles and freckles. (If you are concerned that a stain on your body is growing or changing more than expected, consult a dermatologist for further assessment.) Most pigment changes return to normal after birth, but can take many months with them.

Melasma, the "mask of pregnancy"

Perhaps the most cosmetically stressful pigment change in pregnancy is melasma, also known as the “mask of pregnancy”. Melasma, which can appear as dark spots on the forehead, cheeks, and upper lip, develops in about 70% of pregnant women. Melasma is made worse by exposure to the sun. To prevent this from happening, regularly use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 50, wear sunscreen clothing and hats when outdoors, and avoid too much direct sunlight.

Melasma can sometimes persist after delivery, although it tends to improve after delivery. If you want to treat melasma after delivery, there are many treatments that can be prescribed or performed by a dermatologist, including skin whiteners, chemical peels, and certain types of lasers. Hydroquinone, one of the most widely used whitening agents on the market, is not safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. If you want to use a cream that has lightening properties during pregnancy, look for glycolic acid or azelaic acid in the ingredients list.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks, also called striae gravidarum, are pink or white streaks of thin skin that develop in up to 90% of pregnant women. They occur due to the expansion and stretching of the skin during pregnancy and are most common on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, and hips. Stretch marks tend to develop in the late second and third trimesters.

Many treatments, including oils containing vitamin E, olive oil, and cocoa butter, have been used to prevent and treat striae, but unfortunately there is limited data to suggest any one of these products is really effective. These pink or red spots tend to fade to the skin color after delivery, although they rarely go away completely. There is some evidence that topical hyaluronic acid, tretinoin, and trofolastin can be used with varying degrees of success after administration. When topical agents aren't effective, research has shown that various laser treatments, energy-based devices, and microneedles can visibly improve striae by increasing the production of collagen (a structural part of the skin) and decreasing blood flow to the lesions.

Acne … again ?!

Many women suffer from breakouts during their pregnancy, especially those who had acne before pregnancy. This typically occurs in the first trimester and is related to the rise in estrogen, which causes overproduction in the oil glands. Guidelines for treating acne during pregnancy are rare due to a lack of safety data. Dermatologists often recommend a combination of topical azelaic acid and / or benzoyl peroxide. In some cases, when these treatments aren't effective, topical antibiotics such as erythromycin or clindamycin can be added. Oral antibiotics, including erythromycin, azithromycin, and cephalexin, can be used in persistent cases. Oral and topical retinoids, usually a mainstay treatment for moderate to severe acne, can cause birth defects and should be avoided during pregnancy.

If you develop skin rashes during pregnancy that are cause for concern, you should be evaluated by a dermatologist before starting any medication.

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