There are many changes that can occur in a woman's skin during pregnancy. These can include stretch marks, pigmentation of the skin, a brown line on the abdomen and sensitive skin. We think this is related to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, and hence, most of the changes that occur during pregnancy disappear after the baby is born.
Some skin changes, such as stretch marks and pigmentation, are thought to run in families. While there are numerous good products on the market for stretch marks, there is a good chance that you will develop stretch marks - despite using these products - if your Mum or sisters had them.
Nutrition, exercise and good health prior to pregnancy are thought to increase elasticity of the skin during pregnancy and reduce stretch marks.
Chloasma is dark, patchiness of the skin. It is caused extra melanin in the skin during pregnancy. Sunblock is recommended to protect your skin. Chloasma usually resolves 6 weeks - 3 months after the birth of the baby.
Linea nigra is a verical line that appears down the centre of your abdomen, crossing your belly button. It is a darkened area that occurs due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy, and again, it resolves after the birth of the baby.
Stretch marks can appear during pregnancy at any stage, but usually they develop in the third trimester. The third trimester (28-40 weeks and beyond) is usually the period of time where there is rapid and large weight gain, and so the skin sometimes doesn't have sufficient time to stretch without causing stretch marks. Normal weight gain in pregnancy is 10 - 14 kg, and the bulk of this weight gain occurs in the third trimester, so you can appreciate that this causes the skin to stretch rapidly.
There is very little that can be done to prevent stretch marks, as they are largely a function of genetics and weight gain in pregnancy.
Women who lead a healthy, active life leading up to pregnancy (ie, good nutrition, exercise and healthy weight) generally have fewer stretch marks. Limiting weight gain in pregnancy to no more than 10-14kg can also minimise stretch marks.
Good nutrition and sensible exercise during pregnancy, as well as a high-quality stretch mark cream can help to minimise stretch marks.
Many women experience sensitive skin during pregnancy, and this can be made worse by using soap. Some women find that pre-existing skin conditions worsen during pregnancy, while other women experience an improvement in skin conditions in pregnancy. To minimise sensitive skin, find a soap that does not cause sensitivity and use good-quality moisturiser after every bath or shower and after washing your hands.
Melissa Maimann is an endorsed eligible midwife in private practice in Sydney. One of the first eligible midwives in Australia, Melissa now offers a range of care options for women including private midwifery care, antenatal shared care and birth support. Visit Melissa's website to learn more about her services.