Your skin during pregnancy
With all the physical and hormonal changes going on in your body, it’s no surprise that your skin, too, will show some signs of change. Here’s what to expect, and how to reduce any discomfort in your skin that results.
Stretch marksIn most pregnancies the tummy begins to ‘show’ and to grow from the third month of pregnancy. After that, growth can be rapid enough for you to get stretch marks – small cracks in the subcutaneous tissue (just below the outer layer of the skin). Stretch marks on your tummy, and sometimes on your breasts, are often purple at first, but later they become white. They are not harmful but their appearance will be permanent, unless you do something about it.
By keeping your skin supple and lubricated daily with nourishing oil, you can help prevent stretch marks. Smooth skin is more flexible and stretches more easily when it needs to. Start using a suuitable oil at the beginning of the pregnancy and keep on applying it until three months after birth, when you will have regained your usual body shape.
ItchingDry, tight and itchy skin over your entire body, especially at night, is caused during pregnancy as your whole immune system reorganises, which can cause allergic reactions. Skin may also itch in places where it is having to stretch quickly, such as on your stomach, thighs and breasts. A good nourishing oil or body lotion will bring relief, as well as helping to keep stretching skin supple (see above). After baby is born, the itching will disappear.
Pigment ChangesSkin may darken on some parts of the body under the influence of a hormone secreted during pregnancy by a gland in the brain – the pituitary gland. Your nipples may darken and you can get a vertical dark line on your stomach. Skin in your armpits, and where the elbow and knee folds can also look tanned. Any moles you already have can change colour, and with bright sunlight the discoloration is more pronounced. Try to stay out of the sun or use a sunscreen with a high protection factor. After baby’s birth, the discoloration will gradually fade over several months.
Facial spots or ‘pregnancy mask’To avoid a rash of facial blotches, or ‘pregnancy mask’, you need to be very careful in the sun during your pregnancy. Brownish patches can appear especially on the forehead, nose, chin and cheeks, or the entire face can look as if it has a blotchy tan. This pigmentation is caused by the hormones oestrogen and progesterone stimulating the skin during pregnancy. It’s harmless, but after delivery it may take a few months before the discoloration disappears.
BreastsDuring pregnancy your breasts become larger, fuller and more sensitive, sometimes feeling tense or tight. Tingling and pain in the breasts or nipples are perfectly normal symptoms. The areola and the glands around the nipples may become darker and larger. To ease any discomfort, rinse your breasts after washing or showering with cold water, then massage the breasts with a nourishing oil. This should ease discomfort and will also help prevent stretch marks on your breasts.