Many women experience changes in their skin when they are pregnant. Some of these conditions are due to changes in hormone levels. Doctors don’t know what causes others. Most of them are harmless. Many go away after your baby is born.
It’s important to know what skin conditions are common during pregnancy. This will help you identify an uncommon condition that should be seen by your doctor.
Path to improved health
Most of the skin changes pregnant women go through are a normal part of pregnancy. Many have limited treatment options. Most go away soon after your baby is born. Common conditions include:
- Symptoms: Brown, red, or purple streaks on your stomach, thighs, buttocks, breasts, or arms.
- Cause: Skin stretching as your body expands to support your growing baby. Most women get them.
- Treatment: There’s nothing to prevent them or make them go away. Creams and lotions could help itching and keep the skin soft. They will not make the stretch marks go away. Most fade over time but may never disappear completely.
- Symptoms: Breakouts of pimples on your face or other areas, even if you normally have clear skin.
- Cause: Pregnancy hormones.
- Treatment: Wash your face every day. Try to avoid picking so you don’t leave scars. You can get some treatments over the counter. Talk to your doctor before trying anything.
Chloasma (melasma, or the “mask of pregnancy”)
- Symptoms: Brown patches on the cheeks, nose, or forehead.
- Cause: An increase in melanin. This is the substance in your body that gives color to the skin and hair. It’s more common in darker-skinned women.
- Treatment: There’s no treatment. Patches usually fade after you’ve had the baby. Being in the sun can make the condition worse. Wear sunscreen and a hat whenever you’re outside.
- Symptoms: Spots already on your body get darker or bigger. These include freckles, scars, or the area around your nipples. Some women get a line down the center of their belly. This is called the linea nigra.
- Cause: Pregnancy hormones.
- Treatment: No treatment is necessary. Discolorations usually fade after the baby is born. Use sunscreen and cover up when you go outside. This could lessen the amount of darkening.
- Symptoms: Small, flesh-colored growths on the skin. Most often found in folds of the skin, such as the neck or armpits.
- Cause: It’s unknown why pregnancy increases your chance of getting them.
- Treatment: No need for treatment. If they bother you, talk to your doctor about removing them.
Varicose and spider veins
- Symptoms: Spider veins are small patches of veins that can appear. Varicose veins are swollen veins that often stick out above the skin. They can be twisted or bulging, and are blue or purple. They can be painful.
- Cause: Increased hormones and blood flowing through the veins. Pressure from your growing uterus can decrease blood flow from your lower body. This can cause varicose veins.
- Treatment: Spider veins don’t need treatment and go away after birth. There are things you can do to relieve discomfort from varicose veins. Take walks, put your feet up, and use compression hose. Ask your doctor what you can do to ease your symptoms.
Pregnancy can affect any skin conditions you normally have. These include psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and acne. For some women, their symptoms get worse. For others, their condition gets better while they’re pregnant.
Things to consider
In addition to common skin conditions, there are some less common ones that can occur during pregnancy. These include:
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) – Patches of very small, red bumps on your belly. It can spread to your thighs, buttocks, or breasts. It usually itches.
Prurigo of pregnancy – Tiny, itchy bumps that look like insect bites. Usually starts with a few bumps and increases each day.
Pemphigoid gestationis – Blisters appear on the abdomen and can spread to large parts of the body. Could slightly increase risk of complications, including preterm birth.
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) – A liver condition that causes severe itching without a rash. Itching usually occurs on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Could increase risk of preterm birth or other problems.
If you are pregnant and have any rash, spots, or markings on your body that concern you, call your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Is this rash or skin condition normal in pregnancy?
- Can there be any complications from this skin condition?
- Is there anything I can do to treat it?
- What kinds of lotions and creams are safe for pregnant women to use?
- When will it go away?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.