Termed hyperpigmentation, areas such as the breasts, groin, under arms, and thighs often become a shade darker in pigment. A line known as the
linea nigra may also show up running down along the abdomen to the pubic area. "Perhaps the most noticeable pigmentary change during pregnancy is
melasma," says Dr. Kristin Stevens, a dermatologist in Portland, Oregon. Also known as "
the mask of pregnancy," this facial pigment change occurs in about half of all pregnant women.
"It is thought that hormones that are elevated during pregnancy such as
progesterone may stimulate pigment production," says Dr. Stevens. "The tendency for tan patchy spots to appear on the upper cheeks, nose, and upper lip is also increased by sun exposure or tanning booths due to the stimulatory effect of ultraviolet light on melanocytes, the body's pigment-producing cells."
To reduce the possible appearance of melasma, Dr. Stevens urges women to use a high SPF sunscreen and sun hat. It’s also a good idea to avoid being in the sun too long and tanning beds.
Varicose veins and spider veins are another annoyance many pregnant women experience. They are, however, superficial, which means they pose no harm other than how they look. Spider veins often appear on the legs, but some women may notice small spider veins or telangiectasias to appear on the face and hands as well, says Dr. Stevens. "Most of these will fade within a few months of delivery; those that don't will respond to a laser treatment."
Spider veins appear on the legs due to increased circulatory pressure and blood volume, which pushes them to the skin's surface, making them more visible.
If you must stand for several hours a day, Dr. Stevens suggests investing in a pair of medical grade compression socks or stockings. Although they might not be your favorite fashion choice, these socks may help to decrease the likelihood of getting varicose or spider veins on the legs.
Dry, itchy skin can become an irritating problem during pregnancy. Skin can become especially dry in areas around the belly and breasts where it is being stretched. "Pregnant women may experience dry itchy skin for the same reason many non-pregnant women do," says Dr. Stevens.
Harsh environmental factors such as low humidity, bathing with a harsh soap, or one with many irritating fragrances and perfumes, bathing with excessively hot water, over-exfoliation with a bath cloth or loofah sponge and inadequate moisturization of the skin surface may all contribute to dry, flaky or itchy skin, says Dr. Stevens.
To alleviate this bothersome problem, Dr. Stevens tells women to adopt gentler bathing practices. She suggests using warm water, mild, unscented soaps or non-soap cleansers, and avoiding vigorous rubbing during and after bathing. Most importantly, follow the "three-minute rule": apply a mild unscented moisturizing cream all over within three minutes of getting out of the bath or shower. "This will help to lock in the moisture, and well-hydrated skin is less likely to flake and itch," she says. This is important even if you
drink the recommended amounts of water each day, as water does not directly hydrate the skin like moisturizers do.
You can moisturize, use sunblock, and stay off your feet, but no matter what your beauty regime, one thing is tough to avoid:
stretch marks. Caused by the middle layer of the skin being stretched and loosing elasticity, stretch marks affect about 90 percent of women during pregnancy.
Stretch marks occur most commonly in the third trimester but may appear earlier. "Stretch marks occur during pregnancy most likely due to the stretching of the skin's collagen and elastin fibers," says Stevens. "They occur most frequently on the abdomen, hips, buttocks, and breasts." Although they are hard to avoid, there is some good news. After birth, the marks will probably be fairly noticeable, either a red or pink color. However, after a year or two the marks will have faded into a shade only slightly darker than your own skin tone. "Treatment with laser may help to fade the redness more quickly. However, the skin overlying a stretch mark will always appear somewhat thinned."
Many women swear by cocoa butters and vitamin E creams to get help
fade stretch marks. There have been no proven preventative effects of such treatments, however, applying such creams daily can help moisturize the area and make it feel subtler.
Although stretch marks, varicose veins, melasma, and dry skin can be annoying, some skin symptoms can be downright dangerous. Click on to learn more about some skin issues that should be checked out by your doctor immediately…
This could be the beginnings of
preeclampsia, a condition causing high blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the fetus. Headaches and blurred vision are other symptoms of preeclampsia, which can be managed with
bed rest and medication.
This may be a symptom of obstetric cholestasis, a condition affecting the liver, causing bile to build up in the blood. Itching may begin on the palms of hands and soles of feet. Medications are given to correct this problem, and early inductions are often advised for this uncommon condition.