Hormonal changes in pregnancy can cause changes in your skin. Most of these changes are not serious, but some may require a doctor's attention.
You may notice a dark vertical line on your abdomen. It is called the linea nigra and appears on many women during pregnancy. It often fades markedly after pregnancy, but it may never fully disappear.
In pregnancy, some women notice brown patches on their face they never had before. These patches are called chloasma or mask of pregnancy.
Chloasma is believed to be caused by the hormonal changes brought about during pregnancy. Usually these dark patches disappear completely or lighten after your baby is born. (Oral contraceptives often cause similar pigmentation changes.)
Small Red Elevations
During pregnancy, you may experience vascular changes to your skin. These small red elevations, with branches extending outward, are called vascular spiders, telangiectasias or angiomas,. They usually occur on the face, neck, upper chest and arms, and disappear after delivery.
Some women in pregnancy develop a harmless condition in which the palms of their hands turn red. The condition is called palmar erythema; it is fairly common. It occurs in 65% of pregnant white women and 35% of pregnant black women. It is probably caused by increased estrogen in the system. It's OK to use lotions but the redness of your palms may not disappear until after you deliver. Vascular spiders and red palms often occur together.
Moles and Skin Tags
Pregnancy can cause many changes in your skin. Moles may appear for the first time, or existing moles may grow larger and darken during pregnancy. If you have a mole that changes, be sure to have your doctor check it.
If your doctor says you have a precancerous spot, you can have it removed. This is usually done in the doctor's office. You don't have to wait until after your baby is born.
Skin tags are small lumps or bumps of skin that may appear for the first time during pregnancy. If you already have them, they may grow larger while you are pregnant. Don't worry too much about them. If they are in an area, such as the waist, that is rubbed frequently by clothing, you may want to have them removed.
Itching, also called pruritis gravidarum, is a common symptom during pregnancy. It usually occurs later in pregnancy, and about 20% of all pregnant women suffer from it. Itching does not indicate a problem in your pregnancy.
The skin over your abdomen may itch the most. As your uterus grows and fills your pelvis, abdominal skin and muscles must stretch to accommodate it. Stretching of the skin causes abdominal itching in many women.
Scratching the skin can make it worse, so try not to scratch. Lotions can help reduce itching. Occasionally cortisone creams are used. Ask your healthcare provider about relief.
Most women experience some changes in their skin while pregnant. Some women find their skin breaks out more often. Some lucky women find their skin becomes less oily and softer. These changes are due to the hormones of pregnancy; your skin will probably return to normal after your baby is born.
Stretch marks, also called striae distensae, are areas of stretched skin that may be discolored. They usually occur on the abdomen as your growing uterus stretches the skin. They can also occur on the breasts, hips or buttocks.
Stretch marks usually fade and won't be as noticeable after your pregnancy, but they won't go away completely.
No one has found a reliable way to avoid stretch marks. Women have tried many kinds of lotions with little success. There is no harm in trying lotion products, but they probably won't help.