Pregnancy and your skin
Posted on November 28 2018
Pregnancy and your skin
Our body changes more during pregnancy than at any other time in our lives. Growing a new life is hard work, and we dutifully accept some of the necessary physical changes, but when we think of stretchmarks and spider veins we solemnly hope that we will somehow manage a clean escape. The reality is, most women will experience some skin changes during pregnancy. Most of these changes will be temporary and resolve after birth, but some may bear a permanent reminder of the physical investment their body made to bring precious new life to the world.
Skin changes during pregnancy
Roughly 90% of pregnant women will see stretchmarks, or striae distensae, appear during their pregnancies. That swelling uterus causes pressure on the skin from the inside, known as distension. During pregnancy, distension and stress hormone production can lead to the tearing and reorganisation of collagen and elastin fibers deep within the cellular structure of the skin, resulting in the visible appearance of stretchmarks. Stretchmarks do have a genetic component, with women who have pre-existing breast and thigh stretchmarks being more likely to experience them during pregnancy. Although disheartening to witness in the beginning, stretchmarks will fade dramatically over time.
Spider angiomas, more commonly known as ‘spider veins’ appear as a central red spot with reddish extensions which radiate outwards, similar to a spider’s web. In pregnancy, spider veins typically occur on the neck, throat, face, upper chest, arms and hands. The effects of progesterone during pregnancy causes significant vascular changes that can result in spider veins, particularly the widening of blood vessels, or the vasodilation that occurs as progesterone relaxes smooth muscles. Spider angiomas may resolve after pregnancy, but often remain permanently.
Many women experience changes to the colour of their skin during pregnancy. Pigmentation changes are driven by increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which increases the output of melanin by the melanocytes in our skin. Small changes in pigmentation typically occur in areas of the body that are already slightly darker in colour, or in places that undergo friction. These include the nipples and areola, the skin around the umbilicus, the midline of the abdomen (linea nigra) and the inner thighs and underarms. Some women experience pigmentation changes to the skin on their nose, cheekbones and forehead in the shape of a mask, commonly known as ‘the mask of pregnancy’. Wherever it’s located, pigmented skin usually lightens after delivery and returns to its normal colour not long after baby goes home.
Sweat gland activity generally increases during pregnancy often leading to excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis. Miliaria, commonly known as heat rash may develop.
Acne is common during pregnancy, affecting about 1 in 2 pregnant women. The likely cause of acne during pregnancy is our changing hormones, particularly the secretion of androgens, like testosterone and DHEA. Increased androgen secretion during pregnancy can increase sebaceous gland activity and sebum production leading to the development of acne. See Acne relief for teenage skin for a more detailed acne overview.
What can be done?
Pregnancy is an ideal time to review and optimise your diet. The foods we eat during pregnancy can have profound effects on how we look and feel, and can have long-term health benefits for our baby. Additionally, wearing loose, comfortable clothing made from breathable fabrics, especially in warmer weather, dissipates heat, reduces friction and can help mimimise some pregnancy-related skin conditions.
Taking care of what we put in our bodies and on our skin is essential for proper skin health in pregnancy and beyond. The use of personal care products that are free from harmful or toxic ingredients is advisable. With this in mind, we are proud to have developed endota Organics™ Nurture, a unique range of organic skincare for mother and baby. endota Organics™ Nurture is designed to pick up where Mother Nature left off, caring for mother & baby’s skin with ingredients that are as close to nature as possible.
Our Nurture range is COSMOS certified organic or natural by Australian Certified Organic, dermatologically tested and pH balanced for sensitive skin. These nourishing products contain no harsh ingredients or chemical irritants and are free from mineral oils, paraffins, parabens, phenoxyethanol, lanolin, silicones, SLS, SLES, PEG, colourants and artificial fragrances. To support your skincare needs throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, the Nurture range includes a Moisture Rich Belly Butter and Nourishing Nipple Balm helps to give you confidence that you’re supporting your skin’s needs in the safest way possible.
Remember, pregnancy-induced skin changes are typically mild in nature and will resolve after baby is born. Focus on the remarkable function that your body is performing as it grows a whole new life.
Women experiencing extreme cases, or who are unsure, should seek advice from their obstetrician, midwife or pregnancy care provider.
Dr Hayley Dickinson is a research scientist with a PhD in women’s reproductive health, who does not claim to be a medical practitioner. We seek to offer insights into the health of women experiencing the reproductive, menstrual and hormonal characteristics of female biology. In addition, we offer scientific insight into wellness and lifestyle choices relevant to all. Neither endota nor Dr Hayley Dickinson accept any liability for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided in this blog or incorporated into it by reference. We provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for evaluating its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest hospital Emergency Department. © endota, September 2018
• Tan AU, Schlosser BJ, Paller AS (2018) A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Women’s Dermatol 4: 56-71.
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• Sumit K, Ajay K, Varma SP (2012) Pregnancy and Skin. J Obs Gyne India 62(3):268-275