You already know that too much sun exposure can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. But even a small amount of sun exposure can add to the skin discoloration and darkening so many women experience on their face and body during pregnancy. When you're pregnant, melanin -- a natural pigment produced by the body that is responsible for freckles and tans -- responds to hormonal changes by depositing more color in the nipples and vulva. It can even create a dark line down the center of your lower abdomen.
Melanin is also responsible for the brownish or rust-colored patches some women develop on their forehead, cheeks, upper chest, and just above the upper lip (so much for that pregnancy glow!).
Brunettes and darker-skinned women are more prone to this facial discoloration, known as melasma. It often fades after the baby is born.
While you can't stop melasma from developing, you can avoid making it worse by protecting your skin, especially your face and upper chest, from sunlight and tanning lamps. (Don't be fooled into thinking a deep tan will hide the spots -- they will just get darker and show through the tan.) Try to avoid being outside for long periods between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. When you are outside, wear a hat with a brim and use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.