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Expecting a Baby? Expect Changes in Skin, Hair, and Nails

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Connecticut dermatologist Robert Greenberg, MD, says stretch marks are the pregnancy-related skin condition that seem to upset women most. Unfortunately, they also tend to be permanent, and there is little that can be done to prevent them from occurring or diminish them.

"Creams and lotions don't really work," Greenberg tells WebMD. "There just is no good treatment to eliminate them."

Some other common pregnancy-related dermatological conditions include:

  • Hair growth on the face and chest. It's caused by hormone changes during pregnancy. Also known as hirsutism, it usually resolves within six months of giving birth.
  • Loss of hair in the months following delivery. Normal hair loss actually slows during pregnancy, leading to thicker hair. After giving birth a woman loses the hair she would have lost earlier. Cohen says she routinely sees new mothers who "are freaking out because they think they are going bald." But they are really just getting back to normal, she says.
  • A rash known as PUPPP, characterized by small red bumps and hives. This is the most common skin condition of pregnancy. The itchy lesions typically appear on the lower abdomen and can spread to the thighs, breasts and buttocks. They usually develop during the first trimester, during a first pregnancy, and itching can generally be controlled with creams prescribed by a doctor.
  • Changes in nails. Nails may become brittle and may chip more easily during pregnancy. Or, in some cases, they can become stronger. It is not clear why this happens.
  • Spider veins can appear on the trunk or anywhere on the body. These may or may not go away following delivery.

Preexisting skin diseases may be made better or worse by pregnancy, the researchers say. Psoriasis -- the chronic condition characterized by raised, thickened patches of red skin -- is more likely to improve than worsen. Symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis -- a chronic skin disease causing itchy, irritating lesions on the skin -- are likely to worsen.

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