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Skin Changes in Pregnancy

Itching and dry skin

Many pregnant women suffer from itchy, dry patches of skin that worsen in late pregnancy. Such skin irritation is a reaction to hormonal changes and can be eased by a perfume-free moisturiser. Rarely, itching in late pregnancy may be due to a serious condition called obstetric cholestasis. Itching caused by this condition is much more severe, usually constant, and often concentrated on the hands and feet.

Spider veins

Clusters of broken capillaries (tiny red blood vessels) called spider veins may appear during pregnancy, mainly on the cheeks. These occur as a result of increased blood circulation and the softening effect of pregnancy hormones on blood vessels. Spider veins are painless, but if you are worried about their appearance you can cover them with makeup. They usually disappear soon after the birth.

Increased pigmentation

An increase in skin pigmentation is common in pregnancy, probably due to the increased production of hormones. Most women notice a darkening of the area around the nipple (the areola), and a dark line, called the linea nigra, forming vertically through the middle of the belly from the umbilicus to the pelvis. Also common are dark patches on the cheeks, nose, and chin, known as melasma (also known as chloasma, or the "mask of pregnancy.") On women with dark skin, the patches may appear lighter than surrounding skin. Exposure to sunlight can make the patches more obvious, so use a high-protection sunscreen on your face.

Stretch marks

Rapid stretching of the skin during pregnancy often leads to the development of pink or purple lines, known as stretch marks. These marks, which can look quite alarming, with a scarlike appearance, usually appear in late pregnancy, commonly on the abdomen, hips, thighs, and upper breast. There is no clear evidence that any cream will prevent or remove stretch marks, although a light unscented moisturizer can help keep the skin supple, as will staying well hydrated and avoiding excessive weight gain. As time passes after the birth, stretch marks become silvery and almost invisible.

Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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