Health

Pregnancy body changes – your skin

Pregnancy hormones bring about huge change to almost every part of a woman’s body from skin and hair right through to teeth and gums. Since skin is the outermost layer of the body, even slight changes are evident.

When a woman becomes pregnant, her skin often goes through many changes.

During pregnancy, you may develop:

  • stretch marks
  • changes in skin colour (pigmentation)
  • spots
  • broken veins
  • chafing
  • sensitive or itchy skin

Changes in the levels of hormones in your body, and changes to your immune system, are thought to be responsible. Most of the skin changes that take place during pregnancy disappear after your baby is born.

Some skin changes, in particular stretch marks and changes in pigmentation, are thought to run in families. So if your mum or sister had them during their pregnancies, you may be more likely to develop them

Colour changes

Often, changes with pigmentation are among the most pronounced skin changes during pregnancy. The area around your nipples might darken. The same thing can happen with the skin on your inner thighs and genitals. You might notice a dark line from your navel to your pubic bone.

Dark patches might develop on your face, particularly along the cheek bone and upper lip. This is known as chloasma or mask of pregnancy. Although these skin changes aren’t preventable, chloasma can get worse with sun exposure. Stay in the shade when you can. If you must be in the sun, use plenty of sunscreen.

Stretch marks

If you have them, you’re in good company. About 90% of women will get them sometime after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent stretch marks. It’s a good idea to keep your skin hydrated with a rich lotion, especially if it makes your skin feel better, look smoother and more toned, and helps the itchiness that can come with your growing belly. It also helps to keep your body hydrated with water.

pregnancy body changes

Expert advice on pregnancy body changes 

Here are some of the most common pregnancy skin changes you might notice:

Acne

If you have a pre-existing problem with acne, your acne may become more irritated during pregnancy. The extra hormones in the body cause your oil glands to secrete more oil, which can cause breakouts. Keep a strict cleansing routine morning and night, but bear in mind that over-cleansing can cause dryness or over-production of oil. Avoid using acne medicated products without specialist skin care advice.
Use an oil-free moisturiser with an SPF of at least factor 20, which can help to prevent pigmentation.

Spider veins

Red surface veins (also known as ‘spider naevi’) look like tiny ‘spider leg lines’ on the skin. They appear because the small blood vessels under the skin break with the increased blood circulating through your system during pregnancy. Spider veins can create intricate red patterns or spots on the skin. Spider veins are usually more common on the chest, upper arms and legs. They are different from the larger, deep purple blood vessels, known as varicose veins. Spider veins will mostly disappear after the birth.

Skin tags

Skin tags are small pieces of skin that ‘overgrow’, sometimes looking a little like a wart. They occur more frequently during pregnancy because of the body’s increased metabolism. These can be annoying and unsightly, but if you break them off or rub them, they may bleed.
Skin tags can turn up anywhere on your body, but they are more commonly found in places where the skin rubs (such as under the arms, breasts and inner thighs). Most skin tags will disappear as mysteriously as they came during the first three to four months after the baby is born. If some do not and you find them annoying, your doctor or dermatologist can usually remove them for you after this time. Freezing them off is the most common way of doing this.
During the first three months of your pregnancy, you will notice significant changes to your skin, but don’t worry; the skin will settle and in your second trimester your skin will be glowing and looking healthy due to increased circulation and your hormones will self-regulate.”

Pregnancy skin care tips

  1. Cleanse with a pH-balanced cleanser.
  2. Exfoliate once a week.
  3. Moisturise with a SPF of 20.
  4. Eat healthy foods – especially spinach, iron, foods with plenty of nutrients and antioxidants and lutein, which helps keep your eyes bright and sparkly.
  5. Try and get lots of rest and enjoy the pregnancy.

More like this:

Overweight and pregnant
Preparing your body for childbirth
Embarrassing symptoms of pregnancy

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.