By Dr Priyanka Reddy
Nurturing life in your womb is a beautiful experience but it can also wreak havoc on your body, throwing up new challenges every month. While morning sickness, migraines, fatigue are often talked about, much less is known about the effects of pregnancy on your skin. The pregnancy hormones can affect your skin in a number of ways but it’s important to remember which effects are permanent (and need to be treated) and which will fade away post-pregnancy.
Dry and itchy skin
This is one of the most common complaints we get from to-be mothers, especially during the second and third trimesters. Areas where the skin stretches out more, such as the breasts and stomach, are likely to be more affected. It’s important to remember that this skin condition is a common effect of pregnancy hormones. At the same time, it must be said that while some types of itchiness can be controlled with home remedies and preventive techniques, others may need treatment. So do check with your dermatologist first.
As far as prevention of dry skin and itchiness goes, you need to really moisturise your skin well. Use a moisturisation recommended by your dermatologist to make sure that it has pregnancy-friendly ingredients. It’s also important to start moisturising your skin from the first trimester itself, and not to wait till the second trimester when the symptoms usually manifest. Avoid doing anything that can dry out your skin even further, for instance, stop taking baths with very hot water, stick to lukewarm or room temperature.
A number of dark spots may appear all over the body, especially in areas where there are folds — underarms, neck, stomach, and groin. Pigmentation will disappear within four to five months after you deliver your baby, so don’t worry too much. Do not scrub your skin hard or do anything else to try and remove the pigmentation. That will only be counter-productive for your skin in the long run.
There is very little you can do to avoid stretch marks altogether. When your skin is stretched beyond a limit, as is inevitable during pregnancy, the collagen fibres tend to break, resulting in stretch marks. While you can’t avoid stretch marks completely, moisturising the area will help improve the elasticity of the skin, which in turn will reduce the severity of the stretch marks. Once again, make sure you use a dermatologist recommended moisturiser.
Also, make it a point not to scratch the area, as this will only worsen the stretch marks; just try to moisturise regularly instead. Once you’ve delivered a baby, you can book an appointment with your dermatologist. There are a number of effective treatments available today and your stretch marks will fade away soon enough.
In some women, acne gets aggravated during pregnancy, especially in the first and early second trimester. What makes the situation a little more complicated is that you can’t use most acne treatment creams, as they usually contain liekm retiniols, an ingredient that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. So prevention might be the best option. Regularly wash your face, take care of your skin, and don’t touch your acne. If it’s getting out of control, consult a dermatologist who will recommend a pregnancy-friendly treatment.
A note of caution
If you’re using medicated skin care products, make sure you book an appointment with your dermatologist when you find out you’re pregnant. There are certain ingredients that are commonly used in medicated cosmetics (Sasylic acid and retinoids for example) that can be harmful during pregnancy. It’s best to consult your dermatologist who will let you know if you have to change your skincare products.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to pregnancy-related skin conditions is that they are mostly temporary. Don’t stress out too much about these conditions as they will probably disappear post-pregnancy. If you’re in panic mode about a skin issue, just consult your dermatologist and get an expert opinion.
(The author is dermatologist, technologist and founder of DNA Skin Clinic, Bangalore.)