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Skin changes during pregnancy

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

During pregnancy changes to your hormones, blood circulation and immune system affect your skin's appearance and sensitivity. It will likely go back to normal after you've had your baby, aside from stretch marks, which are permanent, but may fade over time.

Common skin changes include:

• Changes in skin colour (pigmentation)

Areas of your skin turning darker is often one of the first pregnancy symptoms. You may notice that your nipples and the areoles, bellybutton, armpits and inner thighs darken. During the second trimester, some women get a vertical line running from their pelvic bone to the middle of their stomach, this is called linea nigra. These skin pigmentations usually go back to normal after you’ve had your baby.

• Spots or acne

The hormone progesterone causes your glands to secrete more sebum, the oil that keeps your skin supple. Too much sebum causes pores to become blocked, resulting in greasy skin and spots.

• Stretch marks

Stretch marks are very common, effecting 8 out 10 pregnant women. They're harmless and often fade over time. They happen when the middle layer of skin (dermis) becomes stretched and broken in places. Whether or not you get stretch marks depends on the elasticity of your skin. The average woman has 17 square feet of skin. When she’s pregnant, it stretches to an unbelievable 18.5 square feet at full term!

• Broken veins

The increased volume of blood you're carrying creates significant pressure on your blood vessels, causing even small veins to swell or break. They are usually harmless and most women find they significantly improve after the baby is born.

• Sensitive skin

Your skin may become more sensitive with the contact of substances that might not normally affect you, such as sunlight, detergents, beauty products and even certain foods.

• Itchy skin

Itching is common in pregnancy, It’s caused by the stretching of your skin. Mild itching is not normally harmful for you or your baby, but it can be a symptom of a liver condition called obstetrics cholestasis, which is often different to a normal itch as it affects the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.

Obstetric cholestasis can also cause your urine be dark and your stools to be pale. If you have these symptoms, contact your midwife or antenatal clinic.

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