Assurance Clinic: How Motherhood Affects Your Skin Health
Besides experiencing physical and emotional changes in pregnancy, expectant mothers also need to grapple with many new and undesirable skin changes at various stages of pregnancy.
Credit: The Mom in Me, MD
Women become mothers the moment they are pregnant and expectant mothers are often blessed with glowing skin. Understandably, the radiant complexion and other skin changes of pregnancy are the results of enhanced productions of progesterone and estrogenic hormones and this is in large part due to a new endocrine organ, the placenta. While most of the pregnancy skin changes are undesirable, they are fortunately reversible after delivery.
Darkening of the skin
Slowly but surely, darkening of the skin occurs in 90% of pregnant women, especially in women of darker pigmented skin. These are most commonly seen at the midline of the abdomen (linea nigra), the nipples, the underarms, neck, inner thigh, areola and genital areas. Darkening of existing moles, scars and freckles are also common.
Credit: Alpha Mom
Mask of pregnancy (Melasma)
Melasma usually appears as brown patches and commonly affects the central face involving the forehead, cheeks, upper lips, nose and chin. Melasma of pregnancy occurs from 12th weeks of pregnancy onwards in up to 75 % of women. Besides hormonal influence, sun exposure and family history are the other predisposing factors. Fortunately, melasma of pregnancy lightens up in up to 90% of patient within 1 year of delivering the baby. However, it may occasionally persist in some patients.
Appearing in 90% of pregnant women, pink to purplish stretch marks occur as a result of ruptured and retracted skin elastic fibres. They are commonly seen in the areas of thighs, breasts, and abdomen from 12th week of pregnancy onwards. Stretch marks typically become silvery white and thinner after delivery and they do not disappear completely in most patients. Topical medical grade cream has been shown to improve the appearance of stretch marks and laser treatment is the alternative.
Credit: Nursing Resources
Hair and nail changes
During pregnancy, hair growth is strong with thick, shinny and luxurious hair. After delivery, there may be a transition of large population of hair from growth phase to resting phase. When this occurs about 2-4 months after delivery, the result is moderate to severe hair loss, which is called Telogen Effluvium. This is because hair in the resting phase is more loosely attached to the skin and they fall out easily with minimal force. This hair loss can occur up to 1 year or more before regrowth occurs.
Increase growth of body hair—is present to some degree in most pregnant women and makes them look hairy. It is more noticeable in women with dark and/ or abundant body hair. They do disappear following delivery of the baby in most cases.
Nail changes in pregnancy are also common and they include nail lifting, brittleness, white streaks, pigmented stripe and transverse grooving.
Spider veins, varicose veins and red palms
Spider veins/red spots and redness of the palm are common and are seen in two- thirds of pregnant women. Some spider veins do resolve following delivery but they rarely completely disappear.
Varicose veins occur in almost half of all pregnancies and are common in the legs and around the anus.
Credit: The Healthy Mummy
Other skin changes
Acne and eczema may sometimes become worse and skin may become itchy. There is often an increase in sweating and a higher tendency of “heat” rash. Spots around the areola of the nipple appear more pronounce and prominent. Soft skin tags can also appear in the underarm, neck, inner thigh and along the bra lines.
Besides experiencing physical and emotional changes in pregnancy, expectant mothers also need to grapple with many new and undesirable skin changes at various stages of pregnancy. Informing and educating expectant mothers about such changes will enlighten them and; hopefully, help them to become more confident to embrace the new and thrilling journey of pregnancy and motherhood.
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