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Skin changes in pregnancy

Almost every organ in the female body experiences some changes during pregnancy. Most of such changes are necessary in order to accommodate the developing pregnancy.

Some changes however raise some concerns, not least skin changes that can sometimes be unappealing. Luckily, most of the changes are transient and only last during the pregnancy.

Dark spots or brown patches can appear on several areas of the skin. Stretch marks are also pretty common. Some will suffer from acne as well. Superficial veins may become more prominent, aptly called spider veins.

Swollen veins, called varicose veins,may also appear in certain areas. Most of these skin changes occur due to pregnancy-related hormonal changes. Some rarer skin changes may also be related to changes in the immune system occurring during pregnancy.

Being aware that most skin changes will revert back to normal after delivery will ease your anxiety about how you look. Wearing sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat while outdoors will reduce dark and brown spots.

But some women will have the spots lasting for years before they eventually fade away. Stretch marks appear in many places including your tummy, buttocks, breasts and thighs. Being liberal with skin moisturizers helps keep your skin soft, but will not really stop stretch marks from forming.Majority will fade after the baby is born, but they may never disappear completely.

Acne during pregnancy is very variable. Some women will experience this from the first trimester, while for others it may appear much later. The severity ranges from the odd pimple to severe acne.

It’s all due to hormonal changes impacting on the function of the glands of the skin. Nothing to do with the sex of the unborn baby, a common old wives’ tale. Most effective acne treatments are not safe for use in pregnancy as they may be associated with birth defects. Your best bet is good skin hygiene. Wash your face about twice daily with lukewarm water and a mild cleanser. Avoid over-cleansing and choose oil-free cosmetics. Pregnancy acne usually resolves after childbirth.

Spider and varicose veins can pose cosmetic problems on your skin. Spider veins can appear almost anywhere, but mostly on your face, neck, arms and thighs. The pressure of the uterus together with other changes in your blood flow can cause varicose veins in your legs, vulva, vagina and in the rectum. You cannot really prevent varicose veins in pregnancy. But you can ease the cosmetic effect by being active, propping your legs up and wearing a supportive hose. Varicose and spider veins will disappear after you deliver.

Most skin changes in pregnancy are innocent. But some uncommon ones may be troublesome, warranting specific treatment. Intense itching in the absence of a rash may imply a more serious condition that may pose risks to the unborn baby. Alert your midwife or obstetrician if unusual skin changes occur.

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