A Moment of Science

The Skin Changes of Pregnancy

Because pregnancy increases the amount of blood flowing through the body, including to the skin, many pregnant women do get a rosy glow, but that's not all.

melasma

Photo: Scrunchleface (flickr)

Some pregnant women get the dark patches of chloasma on their face even if they avoid the sun.

A woman is never more beautiful than when she’s pregnant! Heard that before?

Because pregnancy increases the amount of blood flowing through the body, including to the skin, many pregnant women do get a rosy glow, but that’s not all. Pregnancy brings about other skin changes that can make a woman feel anything but radiant.

Among these skin complaints are familiar woes that many of us have dealt with at some point in our lives: acne and hives, for instance. Acne is largely caused by hormones, and so because hormones surge during pregnancy, it’s no surprise that acne flares up.

A few of these pregnancy skin woes may be less familiar to you, though. For example, many a pregnant woman develops spider angiomas, clusters of tiny dilated blood vessels that radiate out from a point, resembling spider’s legs. Like acne, angiomas are probably caused by hormonal changes. Angiomas most commonly appear on the face and chest, and sometimes on the abdomen and arms. They may or may not clear up after delivery.

Chloasma, also known as melasma, has earned the nickname “the mask of pregnancy”; obviously, it too affects the face. Hormones like estrogen and melanocyte stimulating hormone increase with pregnancy, basically meaning that there’s more pigment in the upper layers of the skin. As a result, skin is more susceptible to the effects of the sun. In fact, some pregnant women get the dark patches of chloasma on their face even if they avoid the sun. Using sunscreen and avoiding the sun, however, does help prevent chloasma from getting worse. These dark patches will fade after delivery, but like stretch marks, yet another pregnancy skin woe, they may not disappear entirely.

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