Skin Changes in Pregnancy

While most moms-to-be look forward to the “glow” of pregnancy and dread the coming of stretch marks, there are other skin changes that are equally common. Just as many parts of the body change during pregnancy, the skin is no exception. Many of the skin changes below occur because of shifting hormone levels and the changes to circulation and the immune system. The good news is that many of these changes will clear up once the baby is born – or within a few months after delivery.

  • Stretch marks: Stretch marks can occur on the belly, breasts, buttocks, thighs or hips. They often start as red, brown or purple, but typically fade after delivery. Stretch marks are caused by changes in the elastic supportive tissue that lies just under the skin. While many products tout their ability to prevent or reduce stretch marks, there are no medically proven solutions.
  • Acne: While many women thought they said goodbye to acne in high school, it is common to have an increased number of breakouts during pregnancy. Washing a few times daily with a mild cleanser should help. If acne is especially bothersome, pregnant women should talk to their health care providers.
  • Darkening skin: During pregnancy, the body produces more melanin, which is the pigment that gives color to the skin. In addition to a darkening of the nipples, some women also notice brownish marks around their eyes, noses and cheeks. This is called chloasma, or the “mask of pregnancy.” Many women also have a line darken from their belly buttons to their pubic bones. This is called the “linea nigra” and typically fades after delivery. Exposure to sun can make these dark patches even darker. Wearing a hat, putting on sunscreen, and limiting sun time can help prevent further darkening.
  • Itching: Many moms-to-be feel that their skin is itchy during pregnancy, especially over their expanding abdomens and breasts. In addition to moisturizing, staying hydrated is key to reducing itching. A small percentage of women will develop an itchy and bumpy rash during the third trimester of pregnancy. Commonly called PUPPP, this rash typically starts on the belly, but can also spread to the thighs, buttocks and arms.

The joy of pregnancy and parenthood cannot be experienced without some of the above discomforts and annoyances. Fortunately, many of them are temporary and resolve after delivery. Others of them may remain, but will serve as reminders of the amazing work that took place during pregnancy and childbirth.

Additional Resources:

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