Pregnancy can be enough to test the patience of even Saint Monica herself. After all, it involves uncontrollable bouts of nausea and vomiting. It can make mom feel super tired right after she’s woken up. And then there are the pregnancy cravings that just never get satisfied. Fortunately for mom, there are often perks associated with pregnancy, other than the excitement of having a baby.
One of the things that many moms find improve when they’re expecting is their skin. They swear that during pregnancy they just get that glowing look that gets compliments. Come to think of it, for all the crazy symptoms that pregnancy can give expecting moms, the least it can do is to make her look fabulous!
But since we do not, unfortunately, live in a perfect world, not all moms get to receive this pregnancy perk. In fact, some may even develop other skin issues concurrently with any positive dermal changes. There’s a long list of all these potential pregnancy disasters.
After all, the skin is a body organ that is susceptible to the effects of hormones. Its intrinsic properties, such as shed rate, melanin and sebum production can be affected by the rising levels of estrogen and progesterone. In addition, the appearance of skin can also be influenced by other seemingly unrelated factors such as blood flow, immune response and digestion.
We’ve talked to moms across the globe, who gladly shared these top annoying pregnancy skin issues that rampaged their skin before they could even say pregnancy glow.
15 Dry Skin
When mom is expecting the lush skin of pregnancy, getting dry, flaky, maybe even leathery skin can be a bummer. Typically, dry skin occurs around mom’s belly, a result of it getting stretched out to several times its normal size. However, some moms simply have the misfortune of being dry all over, which is basically due to pregnancy hormones doing a funny thing to their skin.
The solution to this problem is simply to stay hydrated. Mom might also want to opt for hypoallergenic, moisturizing soaps or cleansers to ensure that the dryness doesn’t get worse. In really bad cases, pregnancy safe moisturizers can do the trick to keep mom from feeling like her skin is the Sahara desert. If the dryness is way too uncomfortable, especially if it’s itchy, it might be worth consulting the doctor to see if it’s caused by something else entirely and to get treatment for it.
14 Oily Skin
The funny thing about pregnancy is that it affects different women in different ways. While some women experience dry skin, yet others have skin so oily that they could probably sign up for OPEC. Again, this is the pregnancy hormones doing their thing. Only, instead of drying out the skin, the sebaceous glands go into overdrive with oil production.
But as with dry skin, the best solution is to stay hydrated. Sometimes oiliness is the body’s way of conserving water or to flush out toxins from the body. Drinking lots of water can help with both accounts. Washing up at least once daily can also help control oil. But as much as they strip out grease, don’t use harsh soaps. When oil gets completely wiped off the skin, sometimes the body’s reaction is to rebound and produce even more oil! The shine in itself isn’t harmful, though. But oily skin left unmanaged can lead to other problems such as acne, which we’ll talk about later.
13 Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy
This pregnancy skin condition is so bad that it even has its own long, obnoxious name. Papules are raised swellings on the skin that may resemble tiny pimples. Skin plaques, on the other hand, are dry, scaly bumps. Throw these together and add in a lot of itching for good measure and you get this condition, also known as PUPP. Do not confuse this with heat rash (which we’ll discuss later.)
Often PUPP starts around the abdominal area, and then later spreads up to the chest. Sometimes it even ends up in the most inconvenient locations, such as the underarms and the groin. For some reason, it’s far more common in women who are carrying little baby boys. In severe cases, the doctor might prescribe medicinal creams to help relieve the swelling and the discomfort. The itchiness often gets worse when it’s hot, so taking a shower may also help give mom some relief.
Sometimes pregnancy triggers eczema, a type of allergy that results in itchy, inflamed and raw skin. Women with preexisting allergies are more likely to get eczema during pregnancy. Some believe that it pops up as the body’s defense mechanism against toxins. After all, things that might be safe for mom could be dangerous for the baby. So the body preemptively fights off any potential intruder. It is believed that this is also the same reason why women get morning sickness, to keep them from ingesting poison. The down side is, of course, that it overreacts even to harmless substances.
Because eczema is a form of allergy, the best way to prevent it is to avoid the triggers. It can be different per woman. For some, it is caused by certain foods. For yet others, it is caused by allergens coming in contact with the skin. This can include dust and animal dander, or even perfume or laundry detergent.
Even if mom has neither an allergy nor PUPP, she can still end up constantly scratching herself. Normal pregnancy itchiness often occurs on mom’s growing belly, as well as the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. This can happen in tandem with dry skin, although sometimes it is an isolated symptom. Experts believe this could be due to the surge of estrogen levels in the body, made worse by the fact that blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to the extremities. Moisturizers and comfortable footwear can make the ordeal a bit less annoying for the mom-to-be. Also, hang in there. The itchiness often resolves right after childbirth.
Beware, however, of itching that comes with nausea and weakness late in the pregnancy. It could be the sign of a more serious liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis pregnancy, a problem which can increase mom’s chance of a stillbirth.
10 Heat Rash
Heat rashes are those patches of red, inflamed, angry-looking skin that may or may not have tiny bumps on them, usually located under skin folds. During pregnancy, they often occur under the breast, around the tummy, in the armpits and around the groin. This is simply a skin irritation resulting from a combination of the buildup of heat under that area, as well as friction. Since blood flow increases to the skin during pregnancy, these areas become warmer than usual.
Again, drinking lots of water can help mom regulate her body temperature better, thereby avoiding heat rash. Needless to say, tight polyester clothing isn’t the best during this time. Instead, wear loose, airy clothing that allows the circulation of air and, therefore, the cooling of these rash-prone areas. Cool baths may also help, although do take care not to leave any soapy residue under skin folds as this can make the condition worse.
If mom gets oily skin during the pregnancy, the might also get the opportunity to relive her teenage years, face all covered in a horrid breakout. This is because the extra skin grease can mix up with dead skin cells and bacteria, blocking and infecting the pores. The bad news, however, is that mom probably won’t be able to use her go-to acne medication. Many acne meds are banned during pregnancy, as these can increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. There are, of course, alternatives, although they may not be as effective as the standard fare. If mom was taking acne meds before pregnancy, it’s best to consult the doctor when she finds out she’s carrying to check if they’re safe.
As with teenage acne, skin care is essential to help minimize breakouts and scarring. It’s important to be gentle. Popping or scrubbing the pimples can cause the inflammation to spread and can increase the development of pockmarks.
8 Skin Tags
Skin tags are those little benign skin sacs, usually round or teardrop-shaped, that sit on mom’s flesh like Christmas ornaments. They’re usually harmless, but many women find them unsightly. They are, however, more common in skin surfaces that receive a lot of friction, such as under the breasts and near the armpits. While they may not be an eyesore there, they can feel quite annoying. Experts believe that the hormones of pregnancy make women extra prone to developing these little lumps.
They’re often more an annoyance than a problem. They are rarely ever malignant, although it’s still best to consult the doctor if they abruptly change in size or color. If mom really doesn’t like them, she can have them removed at a dermatologist. Skin tag removal is quick, painless and very low-risk. However, women who do grow skin tags often have a genetic predisposition to them. There is, therefore, a possibility that she will develop more in the future.
7 Linea Nigra
Three-quarters of all women will develop linea nigra, a dark band that cuts the center of the tummy vertically, through the belly button. While this isn’t harmful in any way, some moms do become self-conscious when they develop it. After all, that dark line pretty glaring when donning a bikini. And we all know that going to the beach is a pleasure that even pregnant women should not miss out on.
This phenomenon occurs because the placenta produces a hormone that stimulates the melanocytes, the special cells of the skin that produce the dark pigment that colors both skin and hair. For an unknown reason there are plenty of these melanocytes on that band in the abdomen, so it becomes plenty prominent during pregnancy. Linea nigra is more common in women who are dark-skinned, although some fair-skinned moms will develop it as well. It typically disappears gradually after the pregnancy.
6 Darkening Freckles
If melanocytes affected by the pregnancy can produce that landing strip on mom’s tummy, it’s only logical that they can cause darkening in other places where there are plenty of them as well. Women who already have freckles might find that their little dark patches of skin become even darker when they’re expecting. In fact, other patches of the skin that are heavily pigmented, such as moles, will become darker as well. Again, this isn’t usually a health problem. Unless the area undergoes a drastic change, it’s probably just another sign that the pregnancy hormones are busy at work with mom’s body.
Some moms, however, dislike the way that their freckles become more prominent during pregnancy. While there are plenty of whitening creams available, none have been proven to decrease the appearance of pregnancy freckles. It’s actually best to embrace them as a little quirk of mom’s pregnancy look, as they’re probably not going to go back to normal until well after she has given birth!
5 The Mask Of Pregnancy
Women who don’t have freckles might find that they develop something kind-of like freckles, but not quite. Chloasma, also known as melasma gravidarum or the somewhat mysterious “mask of pregnancy”, are dark patchy areas that pop up, typically around the forehead, cheekbones, upper lip and nose. It will often skip the area around the eyes, hence a name that hints that mom is wearing a Venetian carnival mask.
Like linea nigra, chloasma is more common in women who are dark-skinned, the result of them having just more melanocytes on their skin in general. While there is little that mom can do to prevent it, they do become more prominent when she is exposed to the sun. After all, melanin, the pigment that melanocytes produce, functions mainly to protect the skin from the cancer-causing ultraviolet rays of the sun. The more sun exposure, the more melanin is produced. It’s therefore probably best that mom brings along a hat and a parasol, and to never forget the sunscreen.
4 Stretch Marks
Stretch marks have got to be the ultimate pregnancy skin issue annoyance. These spidery little lines often start off red or purple in color, and then fade away to a silvery white. Unlike some of the problems on this list, stretch marks won’t completely disappear after the pregnancy. Once they’re there, they’re pretty much there to stay.
As the name implies, these commonly pop up in areas that get stretched out during pregnancy. In fact, they’re pretty much formed in the same way that little clumps of thread form if you overstretch a piece of fabric. The abrupt strain of the growing body during pregnancy causes it to get injured and develop scars in between. As such, these typically appear on the abdomen and the breasts. However, they can also appear around the arms and the thighs, areas where fat deposits often build up as a result of the pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the body’s water requirements increases drastically. After all, lots of water is needed to keep the blood circulation going, both to supply nutrients to the little one and to flush out any toxins accumulating in the body. However, the human body just isn’t built to handle so much fluid, at least not for extended periods of time. Sometimes, the fluid can’t get back into the circulation as it pools down into the legs. There is no finer example of the effects of gravity on the body.
As such, mom might end up having swollen feet which can make them prone to pain and injury. Mom must therefore avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. Elevating the legs to ease the circulation going back to the heart may also help. If the swelling is severe, especially around the face, it might be best to consult a doctor. This could be a sign of preeclampsia, a dangerous condition that requires medical treatment.
2 Spider Veins
Spider veins are little prominent, stringy clusters of tiny blood vessels that often develop in expecting moms’ face and legs. These pop out because during the pregnancy they carry far more fluid than they’re used to. They’re not usually harmful and are mostly just an eyesore. They will often recede in the months after childbirth, as their fluid load decreases. Some women, however, might retain them for years. If they really make mom uncomfortable, she can often have them removed through cosmetic surgery.
In the meantime, there are a number of ways that mom can keep her spider veins from becoming more prominent. Exercise can help improve blood flow, which keeps it from becoming stagnant and therefore distending these little capillaries. Mom must also avoid crossing her legs, which restricts blood flow down there. She can also opt for compression stockings, which keep the blood vessels from distending too much.
1 Varicose Veins
Spider veins must not be confused with varicose veins. Spider veins are tiny little webby capillaries. Varicose veins, on the other hand, are normal veins that have been distended and contorted due to the increased strain on the blood vessels. Spider veins are often considered a variety of varicose veins. However, they do not carry the same risks as their bigger, more twisted cousins.
For one thing, varicose veins can be uncomfortable. For another, sometimes blood clots can form in them, leading to serious problems such as thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis. These conditions can make mom’s leg sore, swollen and painful. There is also a risk that the clot might dislodge and wind up in the lungs, heart or brain, causing tissue damage and a plethora of problems that could affect both the pregnancy and mom’s own health. As it happens, mothers who are hypertensive are at higher risk of developing these complications.