I have been a Midwife for a long time and to this day I am still amazed at all the wondrous little changes that need to take place in our bodies in order to bring forth our babies. One of my favorite things to point out to our moms-to-be is how all of this is built into our DNA from the very beginning and how our body has all the information it needs to make the process happen. One of the changes that prompt the most questions in our midwifery practice are the skin changes of pregnancy. Here are just a few and some helpful hints to go along with them.
Overall Skin Sensitivity– Your skin is much more sensitive during pregnancy leaving you prone to sunburns and mild rashes. Be sure to lather on the sunscreen an use a mild soap such as Dove or Dial when your cleanse.
Acne– The increase in hormones and the increase in blood flow which causes increased oil production during pregnancy can cause an increase in pimples. You can use a mild oatmeal based facial scrub to help unplug oily pours. Prescription anti-acne treatments such as Accutane, Retin A cannot be used during pregnancy . Also be sure to ask your midwife/doctor about any topical creams you may be using as they may contain chemical that are not safe. You may use benzoyl peroxide.
Mask of pregnancy- In medical terms this is called chloasma. Not all women will see this but it will usually start to appear sometime during the second trimester. It is when the pregnancy hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the melanin cells in your skin to produce more pigment although unevenly. It can happen anywhere on your face but usually appears around your eyes, giving you the appearance of a mask. Avoiding the sun and applying make up to even out the appearance of the mask can help.
Darkened areas- freckles, moles, birthmarks on your skin will darken. Even your areola (the darker area around your nipple) and nipples of your breast become much darker. The moles, freckles, etc. will revert back to their original color. However, your nipples and areola may continue to be a little darker than they were pre-pregnancy. The purpose of the darkened areola is to help your baby find his/her way to the breast (along with their sense of smell). Unmedicated babies, if placed immediately on mom’s belly after birth, will crawl to the breast. See it in action here. It is sooooo cool!!!!!
Linea Nigra- This is the dark line that extends upward from the pubic bone to the navel and sometimes upward from the navel as well. I like to think of it as a road map. Part of the system above, this line helps baby make his/her way to the breast.
Spider veins- are caused by the increased hormones and increased blood volume. The body will make additional collateral circulation near the surface of the skin to handle this additional blood volume. Some of them may not go completely away after pregnancy. If they are bothersome a dermatologist can treat them with a special injection after your pregnancy is over.
Stretch Marks-These little marks seem to cause the most worry for moms to be. Stretch marks happen when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with. This causes the elastic fibers just under the surface of the skin to break, resulting in stretch marks. About 90% of all women will get stretch marks in areas that are growing the fastest, i.e. tummy, buttocks, thighs, breast. The marks often start out reddish or purple, but after pregnancy they gradually fade to white or gray. So, how do you avoid stretch marks? Notice I said that stretch marks are caused by a break down in the fibers below the skin rather than on the skin itself. I am sorry to say, no skin cream in the world is going to help. Do not be fooled by anyone or any add that tells you so!!! Women who are of average weight to begin with should gain 25-30 pounds for a healthy pregnancy. 10 pounds of this is during the first 20 weeks and 20 pounds thereafter. Therefore, in order to avoid stretch marks, it may be a good idea to gain this weight at an even pace rather than in big bursts. These stretch marks usually occur in the last month when you are usually putting on a pound a week. For most women, one or two stretch marks may just be a fact of life. Genetics also plays a big part. If your mother gave you the gift of good connective tissue, you may avoid them!!! Look on the bright side, they fade after pregnancy and become less noticeable over time 🙂
Ending on a Good Note!!! The Pregnancy Glow- We see it enough to know that it is real. Some woman are lucky enough not to get the acne, but this. During pregnancy, there is increased blood flow, and hence increased oil production in the skin, which gives the skin in the face a slightly waxy sheen. The increase in small vessels just under the skin also make the skin look slightly blushed.
Try to take it all in stride. Your body is doing everything it is supposed to be doing. Pregnancy is only nine months and it is over before you know it.