While some women experience the pregnancy glow, others may have to endure redness or rashes on their skin, and a few may also experience dull skin. Fortunately, most skin problems during pregnancy are harmless and normally resolve completely by the end of the pregnancy. However, some skin problems in pregnant women may cause pain, which can be alleviated with medication or lifestyle adjustments.
Read this post to learn about the skin changes that occur during pregnancy, the types of skin disorders women might contract at this time, and how to treat and manage them.
What Type Of Skin Problems Occur During Pregnancy?
The skin problems that pregnant women develop can be categorized into three (1).
- Pre-existing skin conditions: If you already have an existing skin problem, it may either improve or get worse with pregnancy.
- Hormone-related skin conditions: The hormonal changes occurring in the body could trigger some benign (mild) skin conditions.
- Pregnancy-specific skin conditions: Some of the skin changes during pregnancy are due to the various physiological changes that you experience.
Some women may experience an overlap of the conditions mentioned above. Most skin issues can be treated with natural remedies or by taking medications prescribed by the doctor. For that, you should be able to diagnose the skin problem accurately.
Skin Changes During Pregnancy
While some skin changes are common and might disappear after delivery, a few might need treatment even after birth.
Hormonal changes, oil production, and an increase in blood flow during pregnancy may lead to breakouts or acne. If you already have an acne problem, it could become worse when you get pregnant.
Although acne does not pose any risks to the pregnancy, you should be careful when using medications or other products to prevent or treat acne. To stay safe, consult your doctor before trying any remedial measures (2).
- Don’t use any abrasive skin products that may irritate your sensitive skin.
- Some anti-acne medications may not be safe during pregnancy and should be avoided. Talk to your doctor before using any medicine.
- Mild face washes can be used to clean your face, but do check their ingredients before use (2).
2. Skin tags
These are tiny, loose skin growths that may develop during pregnancy. If you already have skin tags, they could multiply when you get pregnant. They usually appear on the neck, near the groin area, and underarms. Skin tags are harmless, and they bring no risks to pregnancy (3).
- You can go to the dermatologist and get them removed. The simple and quick procedure may not even need an anesthetic (3).
3. Stretch marks
This could happen due to hormonal changes or stretching of your skin during pregnancy. Also termed as striae gravidarum, stretch marks can be noticed on the abdomen, buttocks, hips, and breasts. These marks occur due to the stretching of the elastin fibers of the skin. These marks are common during pregnancy and tend to fade away after the delivery (3).
- Moisturizing your skin with cocoa butter, olive oil, vitamin E cream, or aloe vera may help reduce stretch marks (1).
- There are a few treatments that can be done postpartum as well. These include oral tretinoin therapy and laser treatment, but there is limited evidence to prove their efficacy (1). Therefore, you need to consult a specialist.
- You may also use some herbal remedies and stretch marks removal creams that are safe for your skin. But consult a doctor before trying anything.
This is usually a hormone-related skin condition. Around 90% of pregnant women could experience pigmentation of certain areas of the skin, such as the armpits, genital area, and nipples. This usually happens because the pregnancy hormones trigger the production of pigments. Melasma and linea nigra are the two forms of hyperpigmentation that pregnant women experience (3).
- You may use sunscreen when going out, as UV rays can make the pigmentation worse (3). You could also take a few simple measures, such as covering your skin and wearing a hat while going out in the sun to reduce skin darkening during and after pregnancy.
- Take a medication that includes Retin-A. After delivery, doctors may prescribe creams that help fade the dark marks (3).
This pregnancy-specific skin condition causes small red rashes or bumps, which are also itchy. It begins as a small rash or bump on the abdomen area and may develop into a bigger patch later. The rash may also spread to the breasts, buttocks, and thighs (4). Although there are no adverse effects of this on the pregnancy, getting it treated will help you avoid itchiness and discomfort.
- Topical corticosteroids, oral antihistamines, and systemic glucocorticoids are prescribed based on the severity of the rash (5).
- Oatmeal baths, wet and cool compresses may provide some relief from the itchiness.
6. Prurigo of Pregnancy
Also a pregnancy-specific skin condition, this leads to small bumps, resembling insect bites on the skin. These are itchy and could be caused by immunity changes occurring in the body. These last for months after the delivery as well but are not known to have any fetal risks (6) (7).
- Cooling baths can provide some relief from itchiness.
- Doctors prescribe oral antihistamines and moderately potent topical steroids.
- Aqueous cream that contains menthol (1-2%) can also be applied if prescribed by the doctor (7).
This condition may develop when the normal bile flow becomes slow or stops during pregnancy. It causes itching, and sometimes may also result in jaundice. ICP is usually experienced in the third trimester, albeit rarely (8).
There could be risks of stillbirth, preterm birth, or fetal distress. Hence, severe itching should not be ignored.
- The management plan of ICP includes medications, early delivery, and fetal monitoring.
- Medications are prescribed based on the severity of the condition, fetal health, and gestational age (8).
A few other, rare pregnancy-specific skin conditions include (1):
- One in 50,000 pregnant women may experience pemphigoid gestationis. Very rarely, it could lead to premature delivery. Otherwise, it can be treated through medications.
- Impetigo herpetiformis is a rare pregnancy-specific condition. There isn’t much research about this disorder. Medicines could be given to treat the lesions that it causes, but the extent of risk to the fetus is unknown.
- Pruritic folliculitis of pregnancy, the etiology of this disorder is uncertain.
Can You Prevent Skin Changes In Pregnancy?
You cannot prevent but can manage them with medical intervention and sometimes, natural or home-based remedies and topical creams. Remedial measures will help in controlling the rashes or itchiness if any.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can pregnancy make skin conditions worse?
The hormonal changes during pregnancy may give rise to specific skin problems or aggravate pre-existing ones. However, they usually go away postpartum or with minimal treatment (9).
2. When do skin rashes appear in pregnancy?
Skin rashes usually appear during the third trimester (10).
3. How can I treat skin problems during pregnancy?
Most skin conditions that occur during pregnancy are not permanent and usually resolve on their own. Nonetheless, specific treatments are available for certain complicated conditions such as melasma (11).
Although skin problems during pregnancy are temporary, they may cause discomfort. If you plan to use a product to soothe, nourish, or calm your skin, ensure that it is dermatologically tested and only includes safe ingredients. You may also try a few easy-to-follow home remedies after running the procedure and the ingredient list with your doctor. It may also be helpful to report your skin issues to your medical professional and try a soothing remedy as per their suggestion. Skin changes are often common during pregnancy and will eventually disappear over time.
2. Pregnancy and Skin Changes; Stanford Children’s Health
3. D. J. Leffell; Skin And Pregnancy; Yale University
4. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
5. Pruritic Urticarial Papules And Plaques of Pregnancy; The American Osteopathic College of Dermatalogy
6. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
7. Prurigo of Pregnancy; Specific Dermatoses of Pregnancy: Advances and Controversies; medscape.org
8. Cholestasis of Pregnancy; Stanford’s Children’s Health
9. Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy; Family Doctor
10. PUPPP Rash; Cleveland Clinic
11. Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy; American Family Physician