What types of skin changes happen during pregnancy?
Changes in the skin are common during pregnancy. Many of the changes are caused by the higher levels of hormones during pregnancy and are nothing to worry about.
One of the changes you might notice early in your pregnancy is a darkening of the skin on or around your nipples. Later in your pregnancy, you may see a dark line on your skin that runs down your belly from your belly button to your pubic hair. You might also have blotchy brown spots on your forehead, nose, or cheeks. Your inner thighs may become darker. Freckles and scars may also seem darker. You may get new brown moles, or your moles may get bigger.
The darkening of the skin is caused by higher levels of hormones and melanin during pregnancy. Melanin is a substance that is made by the body. It gives color to your hair, skin, and eyes.
Skin darkening is more common in darker-skinned women. The skin darkening is made worse by exposure to the sun. Using sunscreen when you are outdoors may help prevent it. Most of these changes will fade or go away after delivery. Do NOT use skin-bleaching treatments when you are pregnant.
Stretch marks are pink or purple streaks in the skin, usually over your thighs, hips, belly, and breasts. They are caused by the stretching of the skin as you gain weight. They usually appear during the 6th and 7th months of pregnancy. More than half of all pregnant women develop stretch marks. They are much more likely to happen in women with light skin color. Creams and lotions can keep your skin well moisturized, but they do not keep you from getting stretch marks. Most stretch marks fade after delivery to very light-colored lines, but they often do not go away completely. Do NOT use products to fade stretch marks while you are pregnant.
The higher levels of hormones and stretching of the skin during pregnancy, especially over your belly, can cause itching. The best treatment is to use a moisturizer after bathing and several times throughout the day. Use only unscented, gentle soaps to wash your hands or clean your skin, and avoid hot showers or baths because they can dry your skin. Heat can make the itching worse. The itching usually goes away after your baby is born.
Talk with your healthcare provider if:
The itching gets worse or keeps you awake.
You also have a rash.
You have nausea, vomiting, and less appetite, and you are more tired than usual.
Skin tags are tiny, floppy growths of skin that can grow anywhere but are most common near your armpits or breasts. They are harmless and usually fall off without treatment. If they cause discomfort or do not go away after pregnancy, they can be removed easily by your healthcare provider. Let your healthcare provider know if you notice one that is growing very fast or is bleeding.
You may notice new growth of body hair in areas such as your face and chest. This growth of hair is caused by the changes in the levels of various hormones. It usually stops and most of it goes away within 6 months after delivery.
One to five months after your baby is born, you may lose more hair from your scalp than usual. This loss of hair happens because during pregnancy more hairs go into the resting phase that is part of the normal growth and loss cycle of scalp hair. Six to twelve months after delivery your hair will get thicker again. This condition does not cause permanent hair loss or large bald patches.
Sometimes low thyroid hormone during pregnancy may cause hair thinning or loss while you are pregnant and after the baby is born.
Spider veins and varicose veins
Spider veins are common during pregnancy. They start out as small red veins that after a while might look like a map of red, blue, and purple streaks. They usually start on the legs during the second trimester but fade after delivery.
During pregnancy, you have more blood in the veins of your legs than when you were not pregnant. This can lead to swollen veins, called varicose veins. They are usually raised above the surface of the skin. They can be twisted or bulging and are dark purple or blue. You can try to prevent varicose veins by:
Wearing support hose designed for pregnant women to help blood circulation.
Not standing or sitting for long periods of time.
Not wearing tight knee-high stockings or garters that cut off blood circulation.
Walking often to help increase circulation.
Sitting with your legs and feet raised when possible. If you work at a desk, you can prop your feet up on a footstool, box, or several books. Or when relaxing at home, keep your feet up on a footstool, some pillows on the couch, or another chair.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any unusual skin changes or have any questions about caring for your skin.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-04-21 Last reviewed: 2014-04-15
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Skin Changes During Pregnancy: References
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Cunningham, F., K. Leveno, S. Bloom, J. Hauth, L. Gilstrap, K. Wenstrom. Williams Obstetrics. 22nd ed. The Mcgraw Hill Companies, Inc. 2008. Accessed December 26, 2009 from http://www.accessmedicine.com.
Gibbs, R. B. Karlan, A. Haney, I. Nygaard. Danforthâ€™s Obstetrics and Gynecology. 9th ed. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2008. Accessed on December 26, 2009 from http://www.ovidsp.tx.ovid.com.
Lockwood, C. Guidelines for Perinatal Care. 7th ed. AAP and ACOG. 2012.
Pomeranz, M., et al The Skin, Hair, Nails, and Mucous Membranes During Pregnancy. http://www.UpToDate.com accessed April 15, 2014.