We've all heard of a pregnant woman's rosy glow. But it's not the only change that mums-to-be can experience when it comes to their skin. Many expectant mothers have to contend with pigmentation, breakouts, stretch-marks and the worsening of many skin conditions.
It's hardly surprising; the body undergoes a huge transformation during pregnancy that includes fluctuations in the hormones that affect the skin, nails and hair.
The great news is that most of these changes disappear within a few months following birth and don’t harm mum or baby (although they do have a tendency to reoccur in subsequent pregnancies). We sit down with Harley Street dermatologist Dr Ariel Haus to find out what might be in store for you - and your skin - while you are expecting.
The Rosy Glow
When you are pregnant, your body produces huge quantities of growth factors and has more blood flowing through it, resulting in a healthy-looking rosy glow. But, be warned, the increased blood flow can also lead to broken blood vessels known as spider angiomas.
Melasma or ‘Pregnancy Mask’ as it is often referred to, occurs when the sun-exposed skin on the upper cheeks, forehead, and/or upper lip turns a tan, brownish color because excess pigment is deposited in the skin's upper layers.
My only and very important advice is to use Anthelios 50+ sun protection while pregnant and after giving birth. If the pigmentation doesn’t go away on its own, it is possible to do SRA laser followed by combined peel post birth (even if you are still breast feeding).
Pigmentation is the most common skin issue during pregnancy. The hormonal pregnancy rollercoaster can result in women developing melasma or chloasma that usually goes away when giving birth. In some cases it can be aggravated with sun exposure, and take longer than 9 months to fade away. Treatment is the same as with the Pregnancy Mask.
If you thought your days of outbreaks ended in your teens, think again! Common areas affected by worsening acne include the face, chest and back.
On the flip side, some women actually report their acne gets better with pregnancy. The condition is a hormonally-driven, which is why some women take oral contraceptives to clear up this condition, so it makes sense that hormone fluctuations during pregnancy can affect acne either way.
Spider angiomas are collections of tiny dilated blood vessels that usually radiate from a central point and resemble the legs of a spider. It is thought that they could be related to changes in hormone levels, which is why they often appear during pregnancy. Some women develop angiomas during pregnancy on their face, chest, and sometimes on the arms or the abdomen.
Angiomas may clear up after pregnancy, but if not, they can be treated effectively with laser postpartum.
Nearly all of pregnant women will develop stretch marks in response to the pulling and expanding of skin during pregnancy. At first stretch marks are an angry red or purple colour, but they will fade to white in time. They commonly appear on the stomach area, hips, breasts and thighs.
To avoid stretch marks I recommend Preventin by Dermage which has been specially formulated for pregnancy and contains ceramides, almonds, grape polyphenol and vitamin E.
PUPPP, or Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, is the most common skin condition specific to pregnancy. Women with PUPPP develop small red bumps and hives, and at its worst, the bumps form large patches. This rash usually starts on the tummy and spreads to the thighs, buttocks, breasts and arms.
You may feel itchy everywhere during the first and last trimester. However, anti-itching topical medications, antihistamines, and topical steroids can control the itching.
This is a skin condition that presents itself as raised, thickened patches of red skin covered with silvery-white scales, but may improve with time during pregnancy. This improvement could be due to the high levels of interleukin-10 in pregnancy, a protein that is released by one cell to regulate the function of another.
Existing Skin Conditions
Pregnant women with certain skin diseases are more likely to experience an aggravation, or less often, an improvement in their condition. For example, women with atopic dermatitis – a skin disease causing itchy, irritating skin lesions – may find that it worsens during pregnancy. In some cases, atopic dermatitis may develop for the first time during pregnancy. Skin tags are hormonally related and tend to increase in number during pregnancy and this could be attributed to the increased blood flow to the skin.
What about abnormal rashes during pregnancy?
These can be specific to pregnancy and are called specific dermatoses (skin disorders) of pregnancy. Some rashes are ones that could occur at any time but always have a rash checked by your doctor or dermatologist. Also be aware of itchy skin without a rash, especially during the first trimester – this should be reported to your doctor or midwife urgently.
For more information visit www.drhausdermatology.com