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Skin Problems of Pregnancy

A rosy glow is not all that happens to a pregnant woman's skin. She might also have to deal with bumps, blotches, masks, and rashes.

Spider Woman?

Spider angiomas are collections of tiny dilated blood vessels that usually radiate from a central point and resemble the legs of a spider. "They are thought to be related to changes in hormone levels, which is why they can come out during pregnancy," Katz says.

"Some women develop angiomas during pregnancy on their face, chest, or sometimes on the arms or the abdomen, " he says. Angiomas may clear up after pregnancy, but if not, they can be treated effectively with lasers, he says.

Stretch Marks

More than 90% of pregnant women will develop stretch marks in response to the pulling and stretching of underlying skin during pregnancy, Kroumpouzos says. Stretch marks are pink or purple bands in the stomach area and sometimes on breasts or thighs.

"Exercise and use of lotions or creams with alpha-hydroxy acids can be used to prevent stretch marks from occurring," he says.

Mask of Pregnancy?

Chloasma, also known as melasma or the mask of pregnancy, occurs when the sun-exposed skin on the upper cheeks, forehead, and/or upper lip turns a tan, brownish color because excess pigment is deposited in the skin's upper layers.

"This is a similar phenomenon that occurs when women take oral contraceptives and very often it will go away after pregnancy," Leffel says. And, "in some cases, it persists and we have to try different treatments including bleaching creams or chemical peels after delivery."

It's a good idea to use sunscreen during pregnancy to prevent chloasma from occurring or to prevent existing patches from getting darker, he says.

Hair

"Three months after delivery, a lot of women lose hair on their head," Katz says. "This shedding is called telogen effluvium, but often it will grow back."

It should, however, be followed by a dermatologist to make sure there is complete regrowth, he adds.

Hirsutism, which occurs when women grow hair in typical male spots such as the lip and chin, can be triggered by the hormonal changes of pregnancy.

"It is not too severe most of the time and it's also not permanent and tends to disappear within six months of delivery," Kroumpouzos says.

Rashes

Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is the most common skin condition specific to pregnancy. Women with PUPPP develop small red bumps and hives, and when severe, the bumps form large patches. This rash usually starts on the abdomen and spreads to the thighs, buttocks, breasts, and arms.

"You feel itchy everywhere during the worst and last trimester," Leffel says. However, he adds, anti-itching topical medications, antihistamines, and topical steroids can control the itching.

Nails

Nails can change during pregnancy, too, Kroumpouzos says. "Women may report splitting or rough surfaces although we are not sure exactly why this occurs," he says.

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