You expect certain changes to your body when you find out you’re pregnant … you expect to gain weight, you expect that a baby will grow inside you … but did you know just how much your skin would change?
Here are some common changes you’ll experience to your skin during pregnancy and some tips on looking after it.
Common skin conditions during pregnancy
Hormones have a lot to answer for. First, they wreck all your high school photos and now when you’re supposed to be looking ‘radiant’ you’re actually just glowing red due to all the pimples on your hormonal chin!
The good news is that this is a sign your hormones are busy helping that baby grow. So let that be a comfort every time you have a ‘teen’ flashback.
- The best thing to do is wait. In most cases this is a first-trimester symptom that will disappear around the same time as your all-day sickness and your need to pee every 15 minutes.
- Make sure you eat healthy food (if you can stomach any food) and drink enough water.
- Don’t squeeze or pop anything and be gentle when you wash your face.
- It is important to check with your health care provider before you reach for any acne medication. Some can be dangerous to use during pregnancy.
Most women will get stretch marks (striae gravidarum) on their stomach and/or breasts when pregnant.
It would be lovely if a magic cream could erase or prevent stretch marks but unfortunately this isn’t the case. If you’re going to get them, then you’ll probably get them. Genetics have a part to play — if your mum or your sister got stretch marks when they were pregnant then you probably will too. Luckily even though stretch marks are dark and red when they first appear, they do fade over time.
There are also things you can do to help reduce the impact of stretch marks.
- Again … drink enough water. Water helps keep skin supple and hydrated.
- Try not to gain too much excess weight. You’ll of course need to put on weight during pregnancy but make sure you’re not really ‘eating for two’. You only need an extra 500 calories a day when you’re expecting so don’t be tempted just to ‘let yourself go’. Don’t go on a diet though — pregnancy is not a time for restrictive eating habits – just make sure you eat healthy foods.
- Wear a supportive bra. You’ll go up a few cup sizes when you’re pregnant so it is important to be fitted for a correctly fitting bra. Having support will also help reduce stretchmarks.
- There are many creams or oils for stretch marks available and they might help reduce the impact of stretchmarks. Plus it is nice to rub your belly every so often — and it may help with itchy skin too.
- Check with your health care provider before you use any aromatherapy oils too as some aren’t recommended during pregnancy.
Linea nigra is Latin for ‘dark line’ which is exactly what it is — a dark line running from your belly button down to your pubic bone. You can blame hormones again for this little skin oddity. For some women it will be quite noticable, others not so much.
Don’t stress though, it will fade some time after your baby is born. There is an old wives’ tale about the linea nigra predicting baby’s sex though — apparently if your linea nigra is noticeable, you’re having a boy.
As your belly grows it gets itchy. Skin loses moisture as it stretches and when skin is dry it becomes itchy and uncomfortable. Try not to scratch, as that only increases the irritation.
There are a few ways you can reduce the itchiness.
- Drink water … I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but water helps hydrate your skin — important when it is growing!
- Moisturise your skin. Look for a good quality moisturiser. Check out the ingredient list. If the first ingredient is water then it will probably only be a temporary fix. Look for thick moisturisers/ointments with a high oil content – they will be much more effective.
- Don’t have hot baths/showers. You shouldn’t be having hot baths anyway, but hot showers and baths will dry out your skin. Try a warm bath with some oatmeal or bath oil to help reduce itching.
- Wear loose clothes and try not to overheat. Heat can make the itchiness worse so avoid going out in the hottest part of the day and try wearing loose cotton clothes to ensure you don’t overheat.
- It is very IMPORTANT to contact your health care provider if you develop a rash or intense itching all over as it is a symptom of a rare but serious liver condition called ICP.
The mask of pregnancy
The mask of pregnancy (medical names are melasma or chloasma) is dark pigmentation of the face – usually in the areas that get the most sun (upper lip, nose, cheekbones, forehead). It sometimes can look a bit like a mask (hence the nickname). The condition tends to be more common among women with darker skin, hair and eyes.
Your skin should be back to normal by the time your baby turns one.
There are a few things you can do to prevent the condition worsening including:
- Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day
- Wear protective clothing
- Use SPF 30+ suncream
- Don’t forget your can always use concealer — just be careful not to use cosmetics that are harsh on your skin.
Always check with your health care provider if you’re considering other treatments — some are not safe during pregnancy.
So, in summary…
- Pregnancy does weird stuff to your body — even your skin!
- Drink enough water and eat well. It will help your skin and benefit you in many other ways as well.
- Simplify your skincare routine. Your skin will benefit from a simple routine using simple products. Also you won’t have time for a lengthy beauty routine once baby is here.