Soon after you get a positive pregnancy test, you notice your skin changes and starts playing by new rules. Most of the time, it’s nothing to be alarmed about. These changes are largely due to an increase in the female hormone (oestrogen and progesterone). These hormones seem to be wreaking havoc throughout your body while trying to make conditions just right to support your growing foetus.
Here are common skin changes to expect and what to do:
1. The pregnancy glow
Thought we could start with some positives. It’s always great to hear that phrase – ‘You are glowing.’ This is by far one of the pleasures of pregnancy. Credit for this pregnancy glow can be attributed to an increase in blood volumes circulating around the body. Your skin also retains more moisture whilst it produces more progesterone. This naturally plumps up the skin and produces that warm glow for all to admire and wish for, except for when you start to retain water. In this case, drinking plenty of water will help your body retain less.
2. Chloasma: The dreaded pregnancy mask
No one likes that darkened look pregnant women tend to get around their face and neck. Again, it is mostly down to increased production of oestrogen and progesterone. This in turn increases the production of melanine (the dark pigments that form when we have been in the sun). Unfortunately, our warm climes and darker skin make us even more susceptible to pregnancy mask. They tend to fade a few months after baby is born.
To minimise appearance, staying out of the sun is a bit out of the question for the rather sunny part of the world we live, so, getting into a hat/scarf wearing fetish and using adequate sunscreen may help.
Thanks to overzealous hormone production, the pregnant woman’s skin is producing more oil. This can lead to blocked pores and some rather nasty giant spots.
Some are lucky enough to see an end to these troublesome pimples at the end of the first trimester, while others who are not so lucky have to wait till a little after baby is born.
Best advice is to keep your face as dry and clean as possible. A good cleanser and oil free moisturizer should do the job perfectly.
Also ask your doctor about using a B6 supplement as this could help leave your skin looking good.
Medical experts advise against the use of acne remedies that contain the active ingredient Retin A and Accutane as these can lead to birth defects, which an acne free pregnancy definitely does not justify.
4. Stretch Marks
This list is not complete without the almost inevitable stretch marks. They can appear on your tummy, hips, upper arms, breasts, legs and just about anywhere else likely to expand.
Stretch marks are inevitable for some pregnant women and largely depends on genetic factors. Some women are naturally predisposed to stretch marks. If your mum had it, then there is very high chance that you will too.
You can however limit its appearance to varying degrees through regular exercise to maximise skin elasticity and help prevent excess/rapid weight gain. We all relish the chance to eat for two, but rapid weight gain and inactivity can exacerbate the situation.
Keeping your skin majorly hydrated by drinking lots of water and moisturizing your tummy and other areas as often as feasible are also great ways to fight stretch marks. There are tons of moisturizing products in the market that can help. For starters, applying shea-butter (ori / main kade) will go a long way.
If all else fails, accept your battle scars as a sacrifice well worth it. They tend to shrink within months of baby’s delivery.
5. Linea Nigra
Fancy name for the line that forms down the middle of your belly, usually in your second trimester. Many women have this line before pregnancy (Linea Alba), which turns to Linea Nigra as your bump grows and your muscles separate to make room for baby.
This line will fade a few months after baby is born.
6. Itchy Skin/Rashes
Borne from general skin sensitivity and thinning during pregnancy, skin can react to products or situations it never did before. Itchiness could stem from dry and stretching skin, especially on your bump. Tempting as it may be, try not to scratch as this can make it worse. Rather, apply a good moisturizer as mentioned above and rub in for soothing relief.
Rashes can appear and disappear for no apparent reason or due to heat. They can also be as a result of use of perfumed or highly engineered products that can cause an allergic reaction.
A worsening of pre-existing skin conditions like eczema is also likely to cause some itching. A low dose of hydrocortizone cream should help, but check with your doctor first. Using unscented or mild products may also help.
PUPP is another common skin condition that causes rashes with significant itching. Again, the causes are not very clear but pose no risk to you or baby, who is certainly unaware of your rather annoying discomfort. Talk to your doctor in this case.
On the whole, every pregnancy is different. You may experience all or some of these skin problems or even more. Usually, all symptoms disappear at most few months after delivery. Then, you can work on getting your old self back. This is totally achievable with pure grit and determination.