When you first see that tiny pink line or get the call from the doctor confirming that you are pregnant, your mind might immediately flash to visions of an enlarging mid-section and a tiny, precious bundle you’ll eventually bring home. However, you might not expect the changes that your skin will go through as a result of your pregnancy. Skin changes can be almost as dramatic as that growing abdomen, and caring for your skin might bring new challenges for you during pregnancy.
How can I keep my skin healthy during pregnancy?
The things you do that are good for the inside and your growing baby are often good for the outside – your skin. During pregnancy your body increases circulating hormones and your intravascular volume expands. On top of this, there is compression from your enlarging uterus which places pressure on your back, hips, and legs. All of these events combine to create challenges for keeping your body and your skin as healthy as can be.
Hydration – Drinking plenty of non-caffeinated beverages helps all of your systems work better, as there is more demand on your body while pregnant. Hydration by drinking water and other healthy beverages also helps to keep your skin softer and better moisturized. Drinking water is a good way (pregnant or not) to improve your digestion and aid in healthy weight management.
Vitamins – Those prenatal vitamins are also good for your skin. Talk with your OB about prenatal vitamins that are right for you.
Skin Protection – Don’t forget to apply the sunscreen, especially since your skin might be more sensitive to the harmful effects of the sun (just check your labels and check with your OB for appropriate application).
Exercise – Exercising while pregnant is vital for several reasons. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, even as your body gains to accommodate your growing child. It keeps your muscles toned for the demands of labor and delivery, and exercise will help you feel mentally more alert and positive. Exercise also benefits your skin, encouraging enough elasticity so that your body can accommodate the changes it is experiencing. Always check with your medical provider for exercise plans that are appropriate for you and your pregnancy.
What are some skin problems during pregnancy?
1.Varicose and spider veins – These annoying and potentially painful conditions can’t always be controlled as there are some genetic predispositions, but you can decrease your chances of getting them (or at least getting them in a severe form). The additional weight you add during pregnancy increases the likelihood of these problematic veins.
- Avoid standing for prolonged periods of time.
- Wear compression stockings if warranted.
- Try swimming as a gentle exercise to relieve swelling and help manage weight (extra weight gain puts extra strains on the veins).
- Consider a belly belt, which is a large belt that wraps around and Velcros in place as it supports the growing abdomen (had to have one of these lovely contraptions for my 4th pregnancy – but it worked wonders!).
2.PUPP – Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy is too much of a mouthful, so let’s go with PUPP instead, which is basically an itchy, bumpy rash that usually begins on the abdomen and spreads to the thighs and possibly further.
- PUPP poses no risks for your baby.
- It occurs in 1 out of every 150 pregnancies.
- Typically appears in the third trimester, and then disappears after childbirth.
- Oatmeal baths, cold compresses, or applications of aloe might help alleviate the intensity of the itching. Check with your health care provider if the condition gets too bothersome – there are some prescription ointments that can offer relief in severe cases.
3. Stretch marks and other annoying side effects
I remember during my first pregnancy the day I saw the skin on my stomach appear to shimmer – it was the glow of stretch marks appearing across the abdomen, and yes, it takes some getting used to seeing. Keep well-hydrated and avoid rapid weight gain when possible, especially in the first trimester when most pregnant women don’t really need to gain much weight at all. Acne can also be an issue for some women because of the increase in hormones. If you find yourself struggling with this, consult with your OB about safe topical treatments. It might make you feel like a teenager again, but the condition usually improves shortly after you give birth.
These changes to your body, in particular with your skin, might make you feel like you don’t recognize yourself anymore. The real you is there, however, just transforming as it responds to the growing needs of your baby. And pretty soon you’ll think a little acne looks great compared to baby spit-up streaking your hair!