Pregnant woman

Being Pregnant: Your Skin Shows

Now that you are pregnant, you may be wondering where is the “pregnancy glow” you’ve heard about? You might look more like a teenager attacked by acne instead of having bright, radiant-looking complexion. You may even have dark splotches “masking” your face. Or perhaps the stretch marks on your belly causing you to itch from the rash.

Blame them on the hormonal changes that you are experiencing, pregnancy can bring about many strange symptoms, and your skin is not immune to them. The good news is, while annoying, most of these conditions are harmless and will subside after your baby is born.

Nor Adeena Raslee, Content Editor for Mama Net, a locally flourishing educational parenting App shares some of the most common skin problems that you may have during pregnancy and how to manage them. Plus, pregnancy skincare ingredients that you should watch out for.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks appear as pinkish streaks running down your tummy and sometimes on thighs, arms, breasts, armpits and buttocks by the end of the second trimester. It slowly progresses to silvery streaks around the time of delivery. The cause is  probably related to destruction of elastic fibres due to rapid expansion of the abdomen, hormonal changes and genetics.

Itchy, pregnancy rashes

Oftentimes, these stretch marks are accompanied by itchy pregnancy rashes especially towards the end of pregnancy when your belly is stretched the most. Exercising and applying lotions containing vitamin E as in cocoa butter and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) have been said to prevent stretch marks. However, these remedies have not been medically proven to have a direct effect. But fret not and know that these hideous streaks will fade to silvery faint lines after delivery.

Nevertheless, if you are in your third trimester and experiencing severe itching over the whole body, especially on your palms and soles of the feet which even disturbs your sleeps, you should let your doctor know. This may be caused by cholestasis of pregnancy, which is a liver disease that results from high amounts of pregnancy hormones affecting the normal flow of bile in the gallbladder.

Hyperpigmentation

Almost 90% of pregnant women are affected by hyperpigmentation. Linea nigra which literally means ‘black line’ refers to the dark brown line that runs down from your navel to your pubic bone that develops during pregnancy. This line may have always been there, but you may have never noticed it before because it was lighter in colour. At 16-20 weeks of pregnancy, this line darkens as a result of hormonal changes. These changes appear to regress after delivery, but may recur in subsequent pregnancies. Besides that, pre-existing moles, freckles, recent scars, the areola, nipples, armpits and peri-umbilical skin also tend to become darker.

Acne

Hormonal changes in your body can cause oil glands to secrete more oil, and eventually causing breakouts and acne. Keeping a strict cleansing routine should do the trick.

Skin tags

In some women,small, loose, harmless growths of skin can appear mostly under the arms, breasts and anywhere on their body during pregnancy.  Though nothing  much can be done to prevent them, they can easily be removed after pregnancy if you want.

Spider veins

The increased blood circulation during pregnancy may cause small, reddish, painless blood vessels that branch outwards. It usually appears on the face, neck, upper chest and arms. Increasing your vitamin C intake, as suggested by your doctor will help to minimize spider veins. Spider veins may be genetic, in which case there is nothing you can do to prevent them. Fortunately, these will most likely fade after delivery. Laser treatment can be done to help remove any spider veins that have not faded away.

Hirsutism

Excessive growth of scalp and body hair is seen in many pregnant women. However, 4-16 weeks after delivery, a large proportion of hair is shed. This shedding may persist for several months after delivery and is most likely hastened by the sudden hormonal changes at delivery and the stress of labour.

Melasma (the mask of pregnancy)

Known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’, melasma is characterized by symmetrical, irregular, brown-grey pigmentation of the face occurs in up to 75% of pregnant women due to deposition of excess melanin in skin. The underlying cause is uncertain but may be due to hormonal influences, exposure to UV radiation and the increased number of melanocytes.

Pigmentation usually regresses after delivery but may persist in less than 10% of those affected. Wearing a good sunscreen of at least SPF 15 whenever you plan on being outside and using sun-protective gears such as a hat or cap would help prevent melasma.

Skincare ingredients that you should watch out for during pregnancy

Besides food, diet and exercise, many pregnant women may unknowingly apply chemicals in some skincare products that can be absorbed into their bodies and may affect their pregnancy. Though it can be tricky to decipher the complicated labels on the skincare products, some basic knowledge is crucial to make sure you and your baby stay healthy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has outlined that only drugs in categories A and B are considered safe to be used during pregnancy. Otherwise, they may cause dangerous side effects to the mother and the baby, including the followings:

Harmful chemicalsUsesPotential side effects
Retinoidsprescription acne and anti-aging medicationsexcessive intake of vitamin A can cause serious birth defects and liver toxicity
Benzoyl peroxide & Salicylic acids  Treating acnepossible risk to the developing fetus
Hydroquinone  skin brightening agenthigher absorption rate and possible risk to the developing fetus
Tazorac and accutane  vitamin A derivativescause birth defects
Chemical sunscreens  Sun protectionhormone disruptors like oxybenzone and avobenzone can interfere the development of the nervous system of the developing babies
Tetracycline  common antibioticHigh embryo toxicity
Formaldehye  Used in nail polishes and certain hair productsCause fertility problems and miscarriage
Essential oils  come in different varieties and concentrations for aromatherapylinked to birth defects
Parabens  used to preserve products, found in everything from foundations to styling gelLinked to breast cancer and affecting the reproductive system
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)     foaming agent in many soaps and washesMay cause issues with the nervous system and kidney and liver function

As a takeaway, while pregnancy may cause annoying skin concerns due to the major transformation of your body, fret not because most of them will go away after delivery. Work with your doctor to ensure that the skincare routine you use during your pregnancy is safe for you and for your baby. If you already have been using skincare that contains potentially harmful ingredients, you need to stop and select  the ones with safer, cleaner ingredients.

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