"Pregnancy mask" can affect any woman, but there are steps that moms-to-be can take to prevent it from happening and treat it when it strikes.
There are a lot of strange things that can happen during pregnancy. Besides the uncontrollable desire to eat a combination of horseradish and ice cream sandwiches, expectant mothers can also come down with oddly bleeding gums, terrible mood swings, or even a sudden onset of random allergies.
One of the stranger possible symptoms of pregnancy is something called “melasma”, more commonly referred to as “pregnancy mask”. The condition really isn’t debilitating, but it may make it difficult to go confidently out in public.
Melasma causes dark discolorations of the skin to break out usually on the upper cheeks, nose, lips, and forehead, but they can really happen almost anywhere on the face. It's experienced to some degree by between 50% to 75% of pregnant women and is thought to be caused by the usual surge of hormones that just comes with the whole pregnancy package.
The combination of high hormone levels plus some UV-rays from the sun and a little heat is thought to be the magic formula for a woman to break out in pregnancy mask. It’s more common in women with darker complexions, but don’t think that being fair-skinned means you’ll get a free pass. It can happen to anyone, not just those of us blessed with a natural tan.
Splotches from melasma usually come on gradually during the pregnancy. It can make moles or freckles that are already present on the face appear more pronounced, and can even change their color. Worse yet, sometimes they only appear on the cheeks, chin, and on the neck, making it look like you’ve got a 5 o’clock shadow. Yikes.
Luckily, experts have found some solutions. Since the sun’s rays are thought to be a trigger, using sunscreen and wearing a long-brimmed hat can help prevent or at least slowdown symptom progression. There is also some evidence to suggest that melasma can be caused by a folate deficiency, so remember to take those folic acid supplements and eat plenty of whole grains and leafy greens. A variety of topical treatments are also available, including hydroquinone, glycolic acid, and retinoids, among others.
Of course, consult a healthcare professional before using any treatments or adding any dietary supplements.
Melasma usually goes away on its own after pregnancy or soon after breastfeeding has stopped. Then you peel off the patches like a scab. It’s gross, but all of these crazy pregnancy symptoms are more than worth it for the little bundle of joy that comes in the end.