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Skin Changes in Pregnancy

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33 Weeks Pregnant - Stretch Marks

This mom-to-be is 33 weeks pregnant with her first baby. Note her stretch marks in this pregnancy photo.

Photo © A. Weatherford

So, you think your skin has changed since you've become pregnant?

The answer is probably.

The integumentary system goes through several alterations due to both hormonal and mechanical changes. Some of these may have been blown off as old wives tales, while others you may never have heard of before.

Stretch Marks

Striae gravidarum, or stretch marks are probably the most discussed of the skin changes during pregnancy. Nearly every woman fears them or thinks about them. They appear in 50 - 90 of all pregnant women, usually showing up in the later half of pregnancy. While the majority will be on the lower abdomen they can also be found on the thighs, hips, buttocks, breasts and arms of women.

These are most commonly seen as small depressions in the skin. They tend to be pinkish in light skinned women, and in dark skinned women they will be lighter than the surrounding skin. They reflect the separation of collagen of the skin. While not painful the stretching of the skin may cause a tingling or itchy sensation.

While many people will swear by certain creams or lotions, the truth is there's not much you can do about stretch marks, you'll either get them or not. There are some factors that you should know contribute to stretch marks:

  • Family (If your mom or sister has them, guess what?)
  • Weight Gain (Rapid or excessive will make these worse.)
  • Nutritional Status (Well hydrated and healthy skin stretches better.)
  • Ethnicity (African American women get them less.)

So, what now? Well, eventually they do fade after you have the baby, becoming silver lines. While most women don't think about them much, or consider them badges of motherhood, others want their stretch marks removed after pregnancy. There are new techniques and surgeries being explored all the time. Talk to your dermatologist or plastic surgeon if you are concerned.

Mask of Pregnancy

Melanotropin is secreted in greater quantity during pregnancy, this can cause a pigmentation to occur over the nose, cheeks, and forehead of an expectant mom. While it is not caused by sunlight, this will aggravate the situation. 45 - 70% of women will experience this beginning in the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. This will fade after the birth. Most women use make up to cover this if it becomes a problem. This is also called chloasma.

Linea Negra

This is a darker line extending from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus (fundus), usually showing up for first time moms around the third month. Multiparous women (someone who has had more than one child) will often see it earlier. While not all women experience this line, don't believe the rumors that it means a boy baby is on the way. (See a linea negra photo.)

Acne

Thought it was gone for good? Think again, while many women actually find that the hormones of pregnancy relieve their acne and leave them with that "glowing" skin of pregnancy, many women find their skin more oily and susceptible to acne break outs. Here's where the high school remedies come into play... Actually ensure you are drinking plenty of water, wash your face, avoid things that cause you to break out. Basically do what works, but it doesn't have to be fancy.

Spider Veins

These can appear most commonly on the face, neck, chest, arms, and legs. They are caused from increased estrogen level in your body. They are often star shaped and slightly raised. They are slightly blue and do not turn white with pressure. 65 of the Caucasian women and 10 of the African American women will experience these, which do usually fade after the birth.

Palmar Erythema

A mottled or reddening of the palms of the hands. This is caused by increased estrogen levels during pregnancy. About 60% of Caucasian women will experience this, with about 35% of African American women too.

Other Facts

  • Some women will have accelerated nail growth.
  • Others will notice a thinning of their nails.
  • Excessive hair growth may occur in unwanted places, fine or coarse. (Hirsutism)
  • Excessive sweating.

Reader Stories: Coping with Stretch Marks

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