Pregnancy can be a wonderful time for women, however, there are pitfalls associated with the condition, some of which might surprise readers. Aside from the standard weight gain and possible health complications (e.g. hemorrhoids, gestational diabetes, chronic constipation, preeclampsia, etc.) linked to pregnancy, there are also skin problems that women might develop during their pregnancy. For some women, these issues may be unusual while others, who have pre-existing skin issues, could experience an exacerbation of their condition or new issues with their skin. With the body’s hormones going into overdrive and an expectant mother’s belly stretching to provide shelter for the growing fetus, a woman’s skin can react in unexpected and unwelcome ways. That being said, here are three common skin problems among pregnant women and how to deal with them.
1. Stretch Marks–This is probably one of the most dreaded side effects associated with pregnancy. Many women develop these pregnancy marks on different areas of their body, especially around the abdominal region, hips, and/or thighs. This issue could develop at any time but commonly occurs during the later stages of pregnancy. However, the amount of weight and how quickly a woman gains weight when she is pregnant could determine whether or not she will get stretch marks. Moreover, genetics often plays a role, as well. It is also important to point out that women (and men for that matter) can acquire stretch marks without the benefit of pregnancy. If a person is obese, or they put on an excessive amount of weight in a short period of time, they could easily develop stretch marks as a result.
As a point of clarification, stretch marks are defined as small, depressed streaks that appear in the skin. While these marks often present themselves on a woman’s body during pregnancy while the abdomen is expanding to accommodate the growing fetus, some women also acquire these stress marks on their thighs, hips, breasts, and buttocks, in addition to the abdominal region. These stress marks result from changes in the elastic supportive tissue that lies underneath the skin. These blemishes can vary in color, depending on the person’s skin color. They are usually either reddish-brown, pink, dark brown, or purple. Over time, the marks fade, however, they never completely disappear.
There is no clear-cut or winning solution to prevent and/or treat these pregnancy marks. First, there is evidence to suggest a genetic predisposition to acquiring them. Thus, if someone’s mother, sister, or other close family members developed them during pregnancy, the likelihood is higher that a woman will acquire them, as well. However, if a woman stays within the recommended amount of weight gain during gestation and gains it slowly over the pregnancy, it may reduce their chances of getting stress marks. There are several gels, creams, salves, and oils on the market that claim to prevent stretch marks, however, there is no evidence to prove they work. Nonetheless, keeping the belly supple and well moisturized as it grows has a number of benefits (e.g. reduces itching, skin rashes, etc.). Furthermore, women may opt to consult a dermatologist about options for minimizing these blemishes, which might include laser treatment or topical medications.
2. Varicose Veins–This common skin condition among pregnant women occurs when blood flow to the legs is impaired and collects in the veins close to the skin. As a result, the veins often appear blue, bulging, and twisted. It is important to note that not every pregnant woman will develop varicose veins. Moreover, this condition can also develop in women (and men) who have never been pregnant or given birth. Here are some risk factors associated with the development of varicose veins. These factors include:
–More common among female gender
–Age (particularly in those over 50)
–Pregnancy (risk increases with multiple pregnancies)
–Sitting and/or standing for prolonged periods
Symptoms of varicose veins include edema (swelling) and/or heaviness around the ankles, pain in the legs, changes in skin color, night cramps, knotty veins, sores, and/or the presence of spider veins. To clarify, spider veins are similar to varicose veins but are smaller in size and closer to the surface of the skin. Many believe these spider veins may serve as precursors to the development of varicose veins.
In terms of treatment, unless they become painful and inhibit one’s daily activities, varicose veins may not require treatment. Many patients who seek treatment might be more concerned with the cosmetic effects and see them as unsightly. However, it is important to note that varicose veins are not life-threatening. Wearing compression stockings can help relieve the pain, reduce edema, and improve blood flow associated with this condition. The treatments for varicose veins involve either shrinking the veins or correcting the path of circulation (blood flow). As such, there are a number of surgical options available. That being said, unless the varicose veins become problematic, treatment for this condition is optional and other therapies should be explored before surgery is considered.
3. Melasma–Due to excessive hormones, more than half of pregnant women develop a pregnancy mask, or darkening of pigmentation around the cheeks, forehead, and mouth, which is referred to as melasma or hyperpigmentation. Along with the melasma, many women will also develop acne. This condition arises from elevated levels of progesterone and estrogen, which trigger melanocytes and result in dark spots, as well as hyperpigmentation of the skin.
Treatment for this skin condition can be tricky. There are a number of cosmetic therapy options available, including laser therapy. However, these treatments are extremely expensive and rarely covered by insurance. Thankfully, there are also various over-the-counter options on the market, including reasonably priced scrubs and microdermabrasion kits. The first line of defense against this condition is that women should avoid the sun at all costs. This applies while pregnant and after giving birth. Sun exposure produces melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin, and trigger the development of melasma. Of course, the use of sunscreen when outdoors is also highly recommended. The sunscreen should be SPF 30 for the best protection and results.
While pregnancy can be a rewarding time for women, it also presents various challenges. In addition to weight gain and potential health complications associated with pregnancy, there are skin issues that women might develop during gestation. This article addresses three common skin problems among pregnant women and provides recommendations for how to deal with them.
Written and Edited by Leigh Haugh
Parents–5 Skin Problems During and After Pregnancy
Lifescript–Top 10 Women’s Skin Problems – Solved!
TheHealthSite–Expert solutions for common skin problems during pregnancy
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