Skin Conditions in Pregnancy
Along with the obvious changes that your body goes through during pregnancy, the surge in hormones also affects your skin. Most of the skin conditions seen in pregnancy will disappear after you have your baby.
Common Skin Conditions Linked to Pregnancy
- Hyperpigmentation: This condition is a darkening of the skin and is caused by an increase in melanin, the substance in the body that is responsible for color (pigment). Pregnancy causes excess melanin production.
- Melasma (also known as chloasma): Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation. It is characterized by tan or brown patches, usually on the face. This condition is so common among pregnant women that it's called "the mask of pregnancy."
- Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP): This is an outbreak of pale red bumps on the skin. These lesions can cause itching or may burn or sting. They can range in size from a pencil eraser to a dinner plate. When they form together in a large area, they are called plaques. In pregnancy, these lesions can appear on the abdomen, legs, arms, and buttocks.
- Stretch marks: Skin will not bounce back in its pure state if it has been stretched by rapid growth caused by pregnancy, weight gain, or extreme weight loss. Instead, it becomes decorated by a form of scarring called stretch marks, or striae. Stretch marks usually start off reddish or purplish in color, and then turn glossy and streaked in silver or white.
- Skin tags: A skin tag is a small flap of tissue that hangs off the skin by a connecting stalk. Skin tags are benign (non-cancerous) and are usually found on the neck, chest, back, under the breasts, and in the groin. They are common in pregnant women and usually painless unless something rubs against them.
- Acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis: All of these conditions may worsen with pregnancy, and should improve after the birth of the baby.
How Are Skin Conditions Treated During Prengnacy?
As noted, most of these skin conditions will clear up on their own after the baby is born. If they do not disappear, or if you want to do something about them during pregnancy, there are certain treatments available. Don't use any medication or treatment while you are pregnant without talking to your doctor.
- Melasma: Certain prescription creams (such as hydroquinone) and some over-the-counter skin care products may be used to treat melasma. But, be sure to consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis of this condition before you choose to treat it yourself. If you have melasma, try to limit your exposure to sunlight, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when outside.
- PUPPP: Your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine to relieve symptoms, or topical corticosteroids. For relief, you should wash with lukewarm (not hot) water, apply cool compresses or wet cloths to the affected areas, and wear loose, lightweight clothing. Do not use soap on involved skin, since it will cause more dryness and itching.
- Stretch marks: You should wait until after your baby is born before seeking treatment for stretch marks. Treatment is usually not effective, but sometimes laser or prescription creams can be of help.
- Skin tags: Your doctor can remove skin tags by cutting them off with a scalpel or scissors, or with electrosurgery (burning with an electric current).