With increasing hormone levels during pregnancy comes a host of skin problems that can affect you from head to toe. Although these problems can be unsightly and sometimes physically uncomfortable, most resolve soon after delivery. By taking a few preventive skincare measures, you can minimize any problems that arise.
Skin problems that arise on the face during pregnancy might be the most embarrassing for you since they are the most visible. Due to an increase in estrogen, acne can be especially problematic at this time, especially if you were prone to menstrual-related acne before you got pregnant. You might notice a darkening of the forehead, temples, nose and eye area, a phenomenon called chloasma. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that up to 70 percent of pregnant women develop chloasma, and the discoloration is more common if you have dark hair and pale skin. Increased blood flow to the tiny vessels just under the skin’s surface, as well as increased sweat production, gives your face that telltale pregnancy “glow.” According to the March of Dimes, taking care of your skin is the best way to combat these skin problems. Be sure to wash your face with a mild facial soap several times a day, and apply sunscreen to prevent any facial discoloration from worsening.
As your belly and breasts begin to expand rapidly late in pregnancy, tight, itchy skin becomes a problem. Relieve itchiness by using a mild, unscented soap in the shower. Make sure the water temperature is not too hot. Don’t forget to apply moisturizer to keep your skin soft and hydrated. Another skin problem you are likely to notice on your breasts and abdomen is stretch marks. These tiny tears in skin tissue vary in size and color. Although they may fade over time, most do not go away after delivery. To minimize your risk of stretch marks, be sure to stay within the recommended weight range of 25 to 35 lbs. The use of topical ointments marketed to prevent stretch marks might help, but there is no scientific evidence to prove they really work. As your pregnancy progresses, the line running from your navel to your pubic bone darkens and becomes more noticeable. This is called a linea nigra and will fade after delivery. Skin tags, flesh-colored folds of skin that form on the breasts, armpits and neck, might also appear. If they bother you, talk to your health care provider about the possibility of surgical removal. With an increase in pigment production, it’s especially important to keep an eye any new moles that form, or any existing moles that darken or increase in size.
An increase in water retention can cause hands and feet to swell. Inform your health care provider of any swelling as this can be a sign of an underlying problem, such as hypertension. Your palms and the soles of your feet might be especially red and itchy, a symptom of rising estrogen levels. Also, nails might become soft or brittle. A decrease in blood flow to your lower extremities later in pregnancy can cause the veins in your legs to turn blue and become painful, a condition called varicose veins. To minimize your risk of developing varicose veins, do not sit or stand for long periods of time. Take daily walks and elevate your legs when resting. Avoid wearing tight clothing that can restrict blood flow. Finally, keep your pregnancy weight gain in check and eat a low-salt diet.
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