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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.

    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.

    Existing Skin Conditions

    Skin tags or "benign hanging things around the neck are hormonally related and tend to increase in number during pregnancy," Katz says. "We don't know why, but it may be that the increased blood flow to the skin encourages the tissue to proliferate," he says.

    "Skin tags increase in numbers, moles can change color slightly and so can benign tumors, scars can become noticeable -- all because the high levels of estrogen have some effect on these tissues," Kroumpouzos agrees. "They may go away or change back after delivery," he says.

    "Pregnant women with certain skin diseases are more likely to experience an aggravation, or less often, an improvement in their condition," Kroumpouzos says.

    For example, women with atopic dermatitis, a skin disease causing itchy, irritating skin lesions, may experience a worsening during pregnancy. In some cases, atopic dermatitis may develop for the first time during pregnancy, he says.

    Psoriasis, a skin condition marked by raised, thickened patches of red skin covered with silvery-white scales, may improve during pregnancy. This improvement may be attributed to the high levels of interleukin-10 in pregnancy, a protein that is released by one cell to regulate the function of another, Kroumpouzos says.

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    Reviewed on February 01, 2005

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