Skincare during Pregnancy
One of the loveliest benefits of pregnancy is the wonders that it does to the skin. Many pregnant ladies often have a radiant appearance that is remarked upon by their friends and family. Proper skincare could help to accentuate and improve skin condition during pregnancy, but it is also a necessary step for those who may suffer from skin problems that arise from the same physical changes in the body.
The first fine flushes that arise with the excitement of being a mother aside, could it possibly be true that some ladies glow when they’re pregnant? The answer is yes—but perhaps not in a manner which requires black light or neon splatter. This infamous glow actually refers to a warm, radiant shine to the skin that some fortunate ladies gain during their pregnancy, and is caused by two factors. Firstly, the body produces up to 50% more blood than it did before pregnancy, and this causes the skin to look a little more flushed. Secondly, due to an increase in hormones, the body secretes more oil than usual, and this helps dry skin to look more radiant.
Unfortunately, the increase in oil could also cause some ladies to suffer breakouts of acne on their skin. Though the condition is a temporary one, the pimples could not only leave behind unsightly scars but also worsen feelings of insecurity in one’s appearance during pregnancy. Before applying acne medication, it’s always advisable to check with the gynaecologist as certain types of medication could adversely affect the foetus.
Four types of acne medication which should be avoided during pregnancy are:
- Accutane (also known as Isotretinoin)
- Hormonal therapies using Flutamide or Spironolactone
- Topical retinoids (including Adapalene, Tazarotene and Tretinoin)
- Oral tetracyclines (Doxycycline, Minocycline, Tetracycline)
These medications could cause birth defects, and even miscarriage and infant death. For instance, topical retinoids are able to seep into the bloodstream and affect the foetus. To be safe, it’s best to check with a doctor beforehand to make sure that the medicine is safe for both mother and child. For clearer skin, it’s also advisable to avoid oil-based products, wash one’s face twice a day, and blot away any excess oil throughout the day.
Due to an increase in hormones, skin pigmentation could occur. The increase in hormones causes melanin production to rise, and this colour-producing amino acid results in skin darkening. Individuals with darker skin tones are more likely to undergo more noticeable skin pigmentation changes during pregnancy. Unfortunately, skin pigmentation is not a uniform process that allows the sufferer to enjoy an even tan. A ‘pregnancy mask’, also called melasma, occurs when the skin on the forehead and cheeks have brown blotches on them due to the increase in the body’s melanin. Fortunately, this fade away in a few months after the child is born.
The vertical stripe of skin that extends directly above and below the belly button to the pelvis could also become darker, though it may have been previously unnoticeable. This line, also known as the linea nigra (Latin for ‘black line’) would become apparent during the second trimester, but would also fade away in a few months after the child is born. To reduce occurrences of skin pigmentation, and to ensure that previous pigmented areas do not resurface, it is advisable to apply sunscreen when one leaves the house or even indoors, if one is exposed to sunlight. When going outdoors, be sure to use a parasol in sunny weather or wear a hat to protect the delicate skin on the face and neck.
However, there are certain instances where skin pigmentation may be permanent. During pregnancy, certain spots on the body which have darker pigmentation than the rest of the skin, are prone to turning dark. These include areas such as the nipples, areolas and moles. The nipples and areolas in particular, are likely to stay dark, for as long as breastfeeding continues. Once breastfeeding ceases, the colour may lighten gradually, but it is also normal for them to remain a little darker than they had been before pregnancy. This colour change may be due not only to hormones, but also to the increased blood to the area. The theory behind this change in colour, is that while newborns need time to develop colour vision, they are able to view high-contrast images more easily and are more attracted to such images. As such, the darkening of the nipple or areola could be a biological necessity that allows babies to breastfeed more easily.
During pregnancy, some women experience dryness and itching in the abdomen area. The reason for this is that as the belly grows to accommodate the foetus, the skin becomes increasingly stretched and tight. This causes the skin to feel dry, uncomfortable and itchy. If the itchiness worsens and spreads to your limbs, it could be possible that you’re suffering from a common condition called ‘pruritic urticarial papules and plagues’ (PUPP). This condition fades away after delivery. In the meantime, in order to relieve the dryness and itching, apply moisturiser to the abdomen or calamine lotion to soothe the itch.
If you have had eczema before, you might also experience a reoccurrence of this condition during pregnancy. However, many ladies may also experience eczema for the first time when they’re pregnant. No one is sure why this occurs, but the dry, red and itchy skin could be caused by a combination of stress and changes in the body’s hormonal levels. Before applying eczema medication, it is advisable to check with your gynaecologist as certain medicines may not be safe for the baby. Safe ways to soothe eczema flare-ups would be to apply cold compresses to the affected area instead of scratching, slathering on skin lotions to keep your skin moist, and to avoid getting warm or sweaty by remaining in a cool environment and dressing in light, loose clothing.
One of the more pleasant—or annoying, depending on your point of view—aspects of being pregnant, is the baffling tendency of complete strangers to come to you and offer unsolicited advice or comments on your physical condition. While the majority of these may be about your health (‘Are you really sure that’s good for the child?) or questions about how far along you are, some comments may actually be rather complimentary and may even help you to regain confidence in your appearance during a period where many women feel insecure about their figure and visual appeal.
During pregnancy, many women discover to their horror that that their legs are suddenly lined with swollen, purplish varicose veins in their second or third trimester. While varicose veins may have occurred in some before pregnancy, the physical changes of the body when one is with child increases the possibility of getting varicose veins greatly. These veins are not harmful to the health, and may fade away after delivery. Unfortunately, that tends to apply only to first-time mothers. For women who are giving birth to twins or multiple children at once, or who are not undergoing their first pregnancy, the varicose veins are much likelier to be permanent.
But what causes these veins? During pregnancy, the body produces up to 50% more blood than usual and is weighed down by the growth of the child and the bodily changes that are made to accommodate the child. One of the key functions of veins is to carry deoxygenated blood from the extremities back to the heart, but during pregnancy these veins encounter much greater pressure as they try to force a greater volume of blood through dilated veins. This pressure is especially strong on the veins in the legs, which have to transport blood upwards and against the pull of gravity.
So how does one reduce the chances of getting varicose veins or to reduce their number?
Here are five simple steps:
- Keep your feet off the ground - Avoid staying on your feet for long periods of time and keep your feet elevated when you’re sitting down. This helps to take some of the pressure of the veins, and prevents them from swelling up.
- Increase blood circulation - Help the blood to circulate smoothly by doing mild exercise and ensuring that blood circulation to your legs in particular is unhindered. This would mean wearing loose clothing and comfortable shoes, and not pinched shoes which cut off circulation to your toes or tightly cinched belts that make it hard for you to breathe, for example.
- Getting support for your body - Though tight clothing is generally a no-no, support clothing such as compression socks that are tightest near the ankle and loosen up towards the knee area could help to ease the pressure felt by the veins.
- Sleep on your left - Doing this takes the weight of the uterus off a vein on the right side of the body, and allows blood circulation to flow smoothly
- Avoid gaining excessive weight - Even though the very thought of having license to eat for two is tempting, try to avoid eating in excess. Weight gain pulls your body downwards and makes your veins work even harder to transport the blood back to the heart
When the body grows at a much faster pace than the skin, stretch marks begin to line the body. During a second or third pregnancy, stretch marks become even harder to reduce or eliminate. If your skin is fair, you will have pink stretch marks, but if your skin is dark, you will have light stretched marks. It’s not just the stomach that may experience the growth of stretch marks, but any area of the body which experience weight gain, such as the thighs and hips.
How do I reduce or avoid stretch marks altogether?
- Watch your weight - Keep your weight gain to the amount recommended by your gynaecologist. A heavier body places greater stress on the skin which has to stretch further to accommodate the accompanying increase in body mass.
- Gain weight in steady amounts - Avoid gaining weight too quickly, or in spurts, as your skin might be unable to keep up with the changes immediately. Steady weight gain allows the skin to stretch gradually and easily.
- Keep your skin hydrated - Your expanding waist line places stress on the skin in that area, which could become dry, itchy, and develop stretch marks. By drinking plenty of water and rubbing in a good moisturising lotion on areas affected by weight gain, you will be able to keep your skin soft and dewy.
12 Jan 2020