You’ve likely heard that pregnancy can make a woman’s skin “glow.” Thanks to pregnancy hormones and increased blood flow, your skin really may shine more during this time.
However, a radiant complexion isn’t the only way your skin can change when you’re expecting. In fact, several skin issues are fairly common during pregnancy. While some skin changes can be unsightly, know that most of them are only temporary and will improve or go away within a few months after giving birth.
Acne: Due to shifts in hormones, acne may first appear or get worse during pregnancy. In some cases, acne improves during the first trimester but worsens in the third trimester. To treat acne, wash your face twice each day with a gentle cleanser, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend an acne product. If you were using prescription or over-the-counter acne medication before pregnancy, talk to your doctor as soon as you know you’re pregnant. Some acne treatments aren’t safe to use during pregnancy.
Stretch marks: These red, pink or brown streaks can show up on skin that’s stretched. They may appear on your abdomen, breasts, buttocks or thighs during the second half of pregnancy. Your skin, especially on your abdomen, may also itch when it’s stretching. While many creams claim otherwise, there is no way to prevent stretch marks. Using a moisturizer can help soften skin and relieve itching, though. Most of the time, stretch marks fade after pregnancy.
Dark spots: Pregnancy can also bring an increase in melanin, the substance that gives color to your skin and hair. This can cause certain areas of your skin to turn darker. Your nipples may become browner, and you may notice a dark line (called linea nigra) that runs from your belly button to your pubic hairline. Or you may develop brown patches on your cheeks, nose, forehead and skin above your upper lip. This is called melasma, chloasma, or the “mask of pregnancy”, and it’s more common in darker-skinned women. Sun exposure can make melasma worse. Be sure to wear a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and a hat when you’re out in the sun.
Varicose veins: With pregnancy comes an increase in blood volume, which can cause veins to enlarge. Your growing uterus also puts pressure on the large vein (the inferior vena cava) that carries blood back to the heart from your lower body. This can result in varicose veins in your legs, vaginal area, and rectum (called hemorrhoids). These veins are swollen, raised, sore and dark purple or blue. While there’s no sure way to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy, you can avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time, elevate your legs and get regular exercise to help reduce discomfort. Varicose veins are typically just a cosmetic problem and tend to go away after childbirth.
Spider veins: The increased hormones and blood flow during pregnancy can also cause spider veins. These tiny red veins may pop up on your face, neck and arms. Like most other pregnancy-related skin issues, spider veins usually fade after delivery.
Skin tags: Skin tags are small, loose growths of skin that hang off the body. They tend to appear in folds of the skin, such as in the neck, armpits or under the breasts. It isn’t known what causes them during pregnancy, but they may go away after birth. If they don’t, ask your doctor how to remove them.
Other skin changes during pregnancy: Pregnancy can also cause other skin conditions that are less common. These can include the following.
- Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP). This condition causes small, red bumps or hives that can be very itchy. These patches may start on the abdomen and can spread to your thighs, buttocks, and breasts.
- Prurigo of pregnancy. With this skin condition, tiny, itchy insect-like bites show up on your skin. They can appear anywhere.
- Pemphigoid gestationis. This condition is marked by blisters on the abdomen or, in some cases, blisters covering a large part of the body. Thought to be caused by an autoimmune disorder, this condition may slightly increase the risk of preterm birth and having a low birthweight baby.
- Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). This liver disorder causes severe itching without a rash. The itching most often starts on the palms of the hand or soles of the feet, and spreads to the trunk of the body. ICP may raise the risk of having a premature baby and other problems.
Keep in mind that most skin issues during pregnancy aren’t a cause for concern. If you develop a rash or skin changes that worry you, talk to your doctor.
Jenilee Matz, MPH is a Medical Writer at Walgreens, who enjoys writing about tips to reduce the occurrence of skincare problems. Visit Walgreens.com to find face wash options to help keep your skin clean during pregnancy.
Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.