Skin Pigmentation in Pregnancy

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There are many common skin changes that can take place during pregnancy which are harmless. You may notice that areas of your skin with more pigmentation such as your nipples, moles and freckles, will darken during pregnancy but this will fade after delivery. However, since there are other conditions unrelated to pregnancy which can cause skin pigmentation changes, if you do find your skin to be inflamed or blistered or if you have a rash or irritation you should talk to your doctor.

What is the “mask of pregnancy”?

The “mask of pregnancy” is the common term for melasma (or chloasma) during pregnancy. It is a condition thought to be found in around 50% of pregnant women. The increase of hormones produced by the body during pregnancy causes more melanin and therefore pigmentation which leads to the appearance of dark spots on the face and neck. On women with darker skin, they can appear as lighter spots. If you are exposed to the sun then this will make the patches darker.

There is nothing you can do to prevent the “mask of pregnancy”, but wearing a high factor sunscreen as well hats and other protective clothing will protect your skin and prevent the patches from becoming darker. Cosmetics can also irritate the skin and should therefore be avoided if possible.

What is linea nigra?

During your second trimester of pregnancy (between weeks 13 and 27) you may notice a dark vertical line running down the centre of your tummy. This is caused by the muscles in your belly that stretch and separate slightly during pregnancy to allow your baby room to grow. This can cause pigmentation in the skin and the linea nigra. There is nothing that can be done to prevent this and the dark line will usually fade in the weeks after giving birth.

What about acne?

Increased levels of hormones in your body while you are pregnant can sometimes cause acne. This can cause dark spots of pigmentation on the skin. After delivery your skin should return to the same condition it was in before pregnancy. The best way to avoid getting acne is to cleanse your face every night and morning. You should check with your doctor before using any acne treatments as some are unsuitable for use during pregnancy.

What are stretch marks?

Almost all women will be affected by stretch marks during and after pregnancy. Stretch marks appear when the skin stretches due to the increase in weight during pregnancy, as well as the skin being thinner whilst pregnant. They are thin lines, red or brown in colour, which most commonly appear on the stomach, breasts and thighs. The pigmentation in the stretch marks will gradually fade after pregnancy and will become lighter than the rest of your skin. The more elastic your skin is, the less likely you are to get stretch marks but there isn’t much that can be done to prevent them.

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