Pregnancy marks the beginning of many changes in a woman's body. While some women experience a different glow in their skin after conceiving, others may suffer from skin problems such as acne, dark spots, and stretch marks.
According to a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, apart from physiological changes, an expecting woman may also experience pregnancy dermatosis, which includes conditions affecting the skin, nails, and hair, due to the complex endocrinological, immunological, metabolic and vascular changes in the body. While some of these changes are temporary, others may need medical attention.
Some of the skin changes you may notice during pregnancy are:
1. Stretch marks
Stretch marks, medically called striae gravidarum, are the most common skin issue faced by women during pregnancy and are seen in up to 90 percent of pregnant women. Stretch marks occur because, as the uterus enlarges within the abdomen, the underlying layer of connective tissue gets detached. This damages the collagen present in the skin, causing the blood vessels to dilate and resulting in reddish, pink, or purple streaks over the skin. Sometimes, the remodeling of collagen leads to the loss of melanocytes (colour producing cells in the body), which results in white coloured stretch marks. These are most commonly seen on the abdomen, breasts, and hips in the late second and third trimester.
Women who have oily skin or are prone to acne may experience breakouts during pregnancy. It is usually seen during the first and third trimester due to the increase in the levels of estrogen in the body, which causes the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.
Melasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy, is one of the most common pigment-related changes seen during pregnancy and is seen in 70 percent of pregnant women. Melasma appears as dark brownish patches on the forehead, cheeks, and upper lip. It can increase when exposed to sunlight. Melasma tends to improve after childbirth but can sometimes persist after delivery.
Hyperpigmentation, commonly called darkening of the skin, is commonly seen during pregnancy due to increased levels of melanocyte-stimulating hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Estrogen boosts the production of melanin (pigment of the skin) with the help of progesterone which gets deposited into the epidermal and dermal layers. It starts during the first trimester of pregnancy and is seen around the thighs, genitals, neck, armpits, nipples, and areola. Some women may also experience darkening of their pre-existing moles, freckles, and recent scars.
5. Spider veins and varicose veins
As the name suggests, spider veins appear as a web of red veins that can be seen on the face, neck, and arms. It occurs due to the increased growth of microvascular endothelial cells in the body of the pregnant woman. Spider veins can also occur due to the hormonal changes and the increase in the blood volume during pregnancy.
Varicose veins, on the other hand, occur when there is compression of the veins due to the weight and pressure of the uterus. This pressure may decrease the blood flow to the lower body making the veins in the legs look swollen, sore and blue. Both spider veins and varicose veins clear up after the delivery.
For more information, read our article on How to remove stretch marks.
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