Skin Conditions during Pregnancy and How to Treat Them

Pregnancy Skin Conditions

Pregnancy Skin Conditions

Around 80 to 90 percent of pregnant women undergo skin changes. These changes can be due to hormones, pre-existing diseases, or the development of other skin conditions that may be attributed to vascular, hormonal or immunological changes during pregnancy.

Due to these visible skin changes, it’s only natural for pregnant women and those who’ve recently become mothers, to look for treatments or solutions. However, it’s important to first understand the causes and symptoms of some of the most common skin conditions during pregnancy.

Common skin conditions during pregnancy and lactation

Some of the common skin conditions that are present during pregnancy and lactation include hyperpigmentation or blotches on the face, acne, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, warts, and infections.

Hyperpigmentation or skin blotches

One of the first signs of pregnancy is skin hyperpigmentation, including melasma – also known as “the mask of pregnancy”.  

Progesterone, a hormone whose production increases during pregnancy, boosts the effects of estrogen, which in turn elevates the levels of melanin, the substance that gives color to your skin, hair, and the irises of your eyes.

During pregnancy, a slight generalized rise in the level of skin pigmentation is natural, mainly in areas that already have a slightly darker color such as the nipples, the areola, the neck, the upper back, the skin around the belly button, and the midline of the abdomen.

In order to manage pigmentation disorders during pregnancy, including melasma, doctors usually recommend avoiding exposure to the sun. The hormonal changes that cause the darkening and blotching of the skin take place during the entire pregnancy and sometimes even lactation months, and medications to treat this hyperpigmentation are contraindicated during these stages.  

The areas of the skin affected by blotches usually lighten after birth, but often, they don’t go back to the color they were before.  

Once the baby is no longer at risk, a dermatologist may prescribe lotions or creams with hydroquinone, a skin lightener, to treat melasma and other hyperpigmentation.  

Acne

Acne during pregnancy is fairly common and without major complications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the acne that presents during pregnancy is no different from the acne at other times in life; however, it may be possible that pregnancy acne is due to an increased production of oil caused by hormonal changes.

Topical solutions are usually recommended for treating acne during pregnancy, although some of these acne medications may not be safe for the fetus, so precaution is always recommended. According to the Mayo Clinic, many acne medications, including the topical ones, may harm the baby as well if the mother is lactating.

As in all acne cases, keeping your face or the affected areas clean and dry is ideal, as well as not using irritating cleansing products, keeping the hair oil free and away from your face, not using oil-based cosmetics, and not irritating acne with your hands.

In regards to oral or topical acne medications, only a health professional can recommend which ones are indicated and safe during pregnancy.

Woman's acne presenting acne
To reduce the chances of getting acne during pregnancy, keep your skin dry and clean at all times. (Photos by FOTOLIA)

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, usually known as eczema, may affect pregnant women, more often if they’ve had it as children or live with some type of allergy.

The most common symptoms of  pregnancy eczema include itching (pruritus), swelling or irritation, scaling or peeling, and heightened skin sensitivity.

Treatment for this type of dermatitis can be complicated during pregnancy, so your doctor may recommend avoiding it if the symptoms are manageable.

If treatment is necessary, it must be followed very closely by your doctor, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Atopic dermatitis is usually treated with steroids that are used externally; however, the risks and benefits of this method must be weighed in pregnant women, because this type of medication can cause the baby to be born with orofacial malformations, cleft lip being the most common among these. Antihistamine consumption must also be done with care in order to avoid uterine contractions.

Psoriasis

Little is known about the causes of psoriasis, although it’s suspected that genetic factors and a weakened immune system may be involved.   

Psoriasis tends to appear in pregnant women only when they already suffer from this condition.

According to the Association of Psoriasis Patients and Their Families, psoriasis symptoms tend to improve during pregnancy in over 50 percent of women who already have the condition, while 21 percent experience no changes. Only 23 percent of women get worse after becoming pregnant. The majority, however, do worsen for some time after giving birth.

Psoriasis treatment during pregnancy entails some risks, which sometimes make it necessary to suspend or avoid treatment altogether, the Association explains. However, in severe cases of pregnancy psoriasis when no treatment could lead to complications, alternatives are sought such as phototherapy with narrow-band UVB radiation along with some systemic medications.

A doctor’s evaluation is required before continuing or suspending any kind of psoriasis treatment during pregnancy and lactation.

Filiform warts

During pregnancy, some women present accelerated growth of warts, especially the kind that is elongated, protuberant and the same color as the skin. These warts are called skin tags or filiform warts, and they are completely benign.

Usually, skin tags appear on the face and neck, sometimes on the abdomen, and it’s assumed that they’re produced by hormonal changes.  

It’s recommended not to treat these warts during gestation and a dermatologist can remove them easily after birth.

To sum up, it’s very important to check with your dermatologist before starting or suspending any treatment for skin conditions during pregnancy and lactation. Remember that even topical medications may be harmful.

Keep in mind that while you’re pregnant it’s not advisable to take medications unless it’s absolutely necessary, even if the risk to the fetus is minimal. Always consult with your doctor.

Have you noticed any significant or troublesome changes in your skin during your pregnancy? Share your experience and how you’ve dealt with it, leaving your comments below.

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