Your body is changing on the inside so that you can grow your baby inside you and this can affect your skin on the outside too. Obviously, you will be growing a bump which will become more obvious as the weeks go on, but there are many other changes that happen too. These may include:
- Stretch Marks
- Linea Nigra
- Skin colour changes
- Cheek veins
- Itchy and sensitive skin
- Swollen ankles, feet and fingers
- Varicose veins
It is thought that the majority of these changes are caused by a significant change in the level of hormones that your body is creating and also because your immune system is also changing.
There is no need to be concerned if you notice skin changes on your body although you may want to mention them to your midwife and keep a check on them to ensure that your skin does not become blistered, inflamed or very irritated.
As you put on weight you may notice pink or purple stretch marks appearing. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to prevent them from appearing as pregnancy causes your skin to stretch more quickly than usual. It also does not help that the higher levels of hormones in your body affect the protein balance in your skin and makes it thinner and more likely to leave marks when stretching.
Using massage oil or cream on your bump regularly encourages new tissue growth and may reduce the risk of getting too many stretch marks, as can ensuring you eat a healthy well-balanced diet with vitamins E and C and plenty of zinc.
After you return to your normal shape, the stretch marks will begin to gradually fade and change colour to a silvery-grey and will become less noticeable.
It is thought that stretch marks are likely to be heredity so you will be more likely to suffer with them if your mum also had them in her pregnancy.
Some women may find that during the second trimester, a vertical line which can be up to a centimetre wide appears down the middle of your tummy. This is known as linea nigra.
A linea nigra is caused by pigmentation changes, these are again affected by hormones, and like stretch marks can also run in the family. As your uterus grows your abdominal muscles stretch and separate slightly to allow baby to have more room and crates a dark line.
Most women who have a linea nigra say they disappear within a few weeks after the birth of their baby.
Skin Colour Changes
Noticing that some parts of your skin are turning darker can be one of the earlier symptoms of being pregnant. During pregnancy yournipples and the surrounding area (known as areola) will darken, as will other pigmented areas already on your skin, including freckles and moles.
Some women are affected by chloasma. Chloasma happens when your makes extra melanin which is used to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays from the sun. Around 75% of pregnant women may experience this ‘mask of pregnancy’ and have brown patches appear on their skin. The most common areas are your forehead, cheeks and neck.
Make sure you use sun protection when out as the sun can make them go darker. These normally fade within three months of having your baby.
It is important to always make sure you seek advice if you have a mole that changes in colour or shape or if you experience any pain or swelling with the pigmentation changes.
Some women find red veins appear on their cheeks, this is when capillaries (tiny blood vessels) break down. Your body is working harder when you are pregnant and extra blood is being pumped around the body, which puts extra pressure on the capillaries causing them to become visible.
Your hormone levels will begin to settle down after your baby has been born and your veins will begin to fade during this time. In the meantime, it is advisable to protect your face from extreme heat or coldness.
Most women suffer from chafing and it can be very unpleasant. You will put on weight during your pregnancy and this may cause the skin between your thighs or under your breast to chafe. Your skin may become red, sore and clammy and damp. It can be very uncomfortable and if it is combined with sweat, it can cause a fungal infection to develop. You must see your doctor or midwife if you are suffering from bad chafing.
There are a few things that you can try to help ease the chafing, these include keeping the area as dry as possible and keeping it cool by wearing cotton or natural clothing of a loose fit. Talcum powder can also help absorb moisture and make it more comfortable.
During your pregnancy, you may be more prone to rashes as your skin is more sensitive. However, there are two pregnancy related rashes that some women suffer from. If you experience a rash that you do not know the cause of, it is best to seek advice from your midwife or doctor.
Many women experience acne during the first trimester. This is because your body produces extra sebum oil in order to keep your skin supple. However, too much of this oil can block your pores and cause spots.
It is advisable not to use any spot or acne creams unless prescribed them by your doctor or advised by your pharmacist as many of these products are not safe for use in pregnancy. Continue to use a mild soap and water.
Acne is a temporary side effect of pregnancy and your skin will return to normal.
Itchy and sensitive skin
Your skin will have stretched, thinned out and become more delicate, each of these will make your skin much more sensitive than it was before.
You may suddenly find that you are no able to use your normal moisturiser, soap or washing detergent because they begin to cause irritation. You may also find that your eczema is more prone to flaring up now that you are pregnant. Your skin will also be more prone to getting sunburnt so it is important that you always wear sun-cream and do not stay out in the sun for long periods.
A quarter of pregnant women also find that their skin becomes itchy without an obvious reason for it. Although it is normally harmless, it is advisable to let your midwife know if you have extreme itching.
Swollen ankles, feet and fingers
Sometimes you will find that because your body is retaining more water, you ankles, feet or fingers may swell. Many women only notice this towards the end of the day. Try not to stand for long periods, put your feet up whenever possible, wear comfortable shoes and exercise your feet by rotating them both ways. If you suffer from severely swollen areas that do not reduce in the morning, it is important that you let your midwife know at your antenatal appointments.
Varicose veins are basically swollen veins. You may find that the veins in your legs become affected. The best things you can do to help are to avoid standing for long periods, put your feet up as often as possible, do foot and leg exercises and trying to not put much weight on your legs. You could also try wearing support tights which support the muscles of your legs, helping them to take more weight and sleeping with your legs resting on a pillow so that they are higher.
People may mention to you that you have a pregnancy glow or that you are blooming. This is because, when you are pregnant, your skin retains more moisture which naturally plumps it up and reduces any lines or wrinkles. The increased hormones in your body and the extra blood circulating around your body can also make you feel warmer and flushed which can sometimes make you look more radiant. You are likely to look and feel healthier and happier.
by Jenny, mum to William and James