If your skin usually breaks out during your menstrual period, you're likely to find the same thing happening during the early months of your pregnancy. But this isn't always the case: some woman find that their regular acne problems disappear during pregnancy, while others who were never troubled by pimples find that pregnancy brings them on.
Wash your face a few times a day with a mild cleanser. It's fine to use a water-based cover-up if you'd like. While most non-prescription acne creams should be safe to use, always check with your healthcare provider first. Never take any oral acne medication without consulting a doctor -- certain drugs used to treat acne may cause serious birth defects.
Itchy, red skin is a common annoyance of pregnancy. Up to two-thirds of pregnant women find that their palms and the soles of their feet grow red and itchy -- most likely because of the increased estrogen levels in their bodies. It's also common for the skin across your abdomen to grow dry and itchy as it stretches. Two less common variations on this theme tend to show up late in pregnancy:
pruritic urticarial papules and plaques (PUPP): an itchy rash of bumps on abdomen, thighs, buttocks, or arms that usually afflicts first-time mothers and those carrying twins.
cholestasis of pregnancy: a severe itchiness accompanied by nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and possibly jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Cholestasis could indicate a liver problem -- if you have severe itching in the third trimester, report it to your doctor immediately.
For itchy hands, feet, and belly, the best thing you can do is moisturize often. Any good lotion will do, though some women swear by the special ones formulated for use during pregnancy. PUPP and cholestasis can be treated by prescription medications given under a doctor's care, and, happily, all of these symptoms tend to diminish or disappear after the baby is born.
Changes or unevenness in your skin's color are most likely due to fluctuating levels of hormones. Here are some of the most common pigmentation changes:
chloasma: Also called melasma or "the mask of pregnancy," these brownish patches of facial skin most often appear on women who are dark-haired and fair-skinned and may be aggravated by spending time in the sun.
linea nigra: Extra pigment shows up in some women as a dark line running from belly button to pubic hair.
vascular spiders: These tiny reddish spots surrounded with blood vessels often appear on your face, neck, upper chest, or limbs.
darkening of pre-existing freckles and/or moles: If you notice a mole changing shape, be sure to tell you doctor.
darkening of the areolas: the color of the skin surrounding your nipples may deepen.
Skin tags -- tiny, floppy growths that can appear anywhere on the body--are a common but harmless skin problem associated with pregnancy. They won't cause problems unless irritated by friction, for example, in an armpit or groin.
Skin tags will probably not disappear after pregnancy, but can easily be removed by a dermatologist. Methods for removing a skin tag include freezing the tag with liquid nitrogen, cauterizing it, or cutting it off with scissors.
There isn't much point, say medical experts, in spending lots of money on those expensive creams marketed to prevent stretch marks. Much depends on skin type--some women are simply more prone to stretch marks than others. Keeping your weight within doctor-suggested limits may help. Though the marks will probably shrink or fade after your baby's birth, they may never completely disappear. Try thinking about your stretch marks as a badge of motherhood, and wear them proudly.
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