Everything from your hair to your waistline can change during pregnancy, and your skin is no exception. Some women find the texture of their skin changes only slightly, while others develop conditions that are noticeable and can be uncomfortable.
It’s impossible to predict how your skin will change while expecting, and though past pregnancies and family history can give you a hint at what to expect, every pregnancy is different. You may experience no changes at all, or your skin could be completely altered during and even after pregnancy.
Below, we review all the ways your skin can change during pregnancy, so you can know what to expect.
Stretch marks – formerly known as striae gravidarum – occur in approximately 90% of all pregnancies, American Family Physician explains. They can appear anywhere on the body, including the stomach, thighs, and breasts. Stretch marks are harmless.
They’re more common in pregnant people who:
- Are younger
- Are non-white
- Carrying large babies
- Have a higher body mass
- Have family or personal history of stretch marks
Stretch marks are caused by several factors and don’t only occur in pregnant people. They commonly develop due to skin stretching with weight gain as well fluctuating hormones.
Like stretch marks, hyper-pigmentation is a common but harmless skin change that may occur in pregnancy. It occurs when patches of the skin become darker than the surrounding skin. For example, the line that often develops between the belly button and lower abdomen in pregnancy (linea nigra) is hyper-pigmentation.
Hyper-pigmentation occurs when there’s an excess of melanin. While it’s more common in pregnancy, it can also occur in people who aren’t expecting.
Not everyone experiences glowing skin in pregnancy. In fact, some women develop acne due to the increased production of progesterone while expecting, which encourages the glands to secrete more oil. However, the oils can clog the pores and encourage bacteria to grow, causing acne.
Pregnancy acne usually resolves itself shortly after pregnancy as the body’s hormones return to normal. Please note that it may take longer if you’re breastfeeding.
PUPPP Skin Rash
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy – better known as PUPPP or skin eruptions – is an itchy, bumpy rash that can occur on the body while expecting. It’s most common on the abdomen (and can even form in stretch marks), but it may also occur on other body parts, like arms, butt, or thighs. The bumps are usually skin-colored, pink, or may even be dark.
What to Expect explains that PUPPP is most likely to occur in a woman’s first pregnancy or those who are expecting multiples. However, the exact cause of this rash is unknown, though some theories suggest it could be due to hormones or genetics.
While uncomfortable, this condition usually resolves itself after the person has given birth.
Although skin tags can occur in non-pregnant people, they’re especially common in folks who are expecting, especially in the second trimester. The exact reason they form is unknown, but some theories suggest it may be due to weight gain (since skin tags are common where the skin folds) as well as hormonal fluctuations.
Skin tags are harmless and not painful. They sometimes go away or decrease in size post-pregnancy, though there are various treatment options available if this isn’t the case.
Changes In Skin Texture
Some women find that their skin texture changes in pregnancy, and that it may become oilier or dryer due to hormonal fluctuations. Androgens and progesterone encourage the glands to secrete more oil, thereby leading to oilier skin. But some hormones produced in pregnancy can also decrease the oil and elasticity of the skin, thereby causing it to be drier than usual.
How your skin responds to the fluctuating hormones largely depends on the skin texture and type you had pre-pregnancy.
Red palms – formerly known as palmar erythema – is a pregnancy condition characterized by the reddening of the hand’s palms and soles of the feet. In some cases, they may look bright red or be darker. It may also be itchy.
While it may cause you concern or discomfort, rest assured that palmar erythema is not serious. It’s caused by fluctuating hormones, as the increase in estrogen promotes higher blood flow to the palms and feet, causing the change in color. It often resolves itself shortly after giving birth.
What to Expect says this condition occurs in approximately 30-60% of pregnant people and is more common in Caucasian women.
Varicose & Spider Veins
Varicose veins refer to enlarged, twisted veins. Though it can occur anywhere on the body, it’s most common in the legs. It occurs when there’s increased blood pressure in the veins, causing them to become larger and dilate.
In pregnancy, fluctuating hormones can increase blood flow causing this condition, but varicose veins can occur in non-pregnant people as well. It’s more common in older folks and women.
Spider veins have the same cause as varicose veins but are considered a smaller version. It happens when the small blood vessels located directly under the skin’s surface dilate, causing small, red lines that appear to branch out.
Healthline explains that both conditions tend to resolve after pregnancy and are non-threatening, though they can be painful. If they cause you a lot of pain, please seek medical attention, as it can be an indication of a more serious problem like a blood clot.
Additionally, some people don’t like the look of them. There are treatment options available.
Some women who’ve never experienced eczema before may develop it while expecting. The causes of eczema are unknown, though research has suggested it may be due to environment and genetics. It’s characterized by red, rough, itchy bumps that can occur anywhere on the body. They get worse when scratched.
Women with a history of eczema are more likely to experience these symptoms. Healthline reports it affects between 20-40% of women who’ve previously suffered from eczema will develop it in pregnancy. It can also make flare-ups worse.
But at the same time, some women with eczema find that it lessens when expecting, only to flare up again post-birth.
Pre-Existing Skin Conditions
For some women, pregnancy can impact pre-existing skin conditions – sometimes for the better, and others for the worse. For example, American Family Physician explains that, in pregnancy, fungal infections become harder to treat, whereas psoriasis is more likely to improve.
If you have questions about how your skin is likely to change in pregnancy, or if you’re suffering from a skin-related pregnancy condition currently, we encourage you to reach out to your family doctor or a dermatologist. There may be treatment available to you to lessen the effects and appearance of your skin condition, and a doctor can provide you with more information on whether it’s likely to improve after you give birth.
Baths that are too hot can pose a danger to your unborn baby’s health.
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