Expecting a baby? You’d better expect the possibility of some fairly noticeable changes in your skin and hair as well – some that should resolve after pregnancy and others that remain, according to Maternal Feta Medicine Specialist, Kecia Gaither, MD.
“Most pregnant women focus mainly on that little bundle that awaits them after nine months, even as they realize that pregnancy isn’t usually a breeze for them physically,” says Dr. Gaither, “however they may not anticipate just how pregnancy might impact their hair and skin. The fact is, most women experience changes in both – and even their fingernails – while they’re expecting.”
“The good news is that most of these hair and skin changes go away after the baby arrives,” she adds.
Common pregnancy-related skin changes
Hormonal changes and increased blood flow during pregnancy often prompts one skin change that women are entirely pleased with: a rosy complexion known as that “pregnancy glow.” But some of the other skin changes that might develop aren’t as welcome, Dr. Gaither notes.
- Stretch marks: Known medically as striae gravidarum, stretch marks are perhaps the best-known – and most-feared – skin change women experience while expecting. They can develop not only on the belly, but on the breasts, hips and buttocks as your body expands. “Avoiding excessive weight gain during pregnancy can minimize the possibility of getting stretch marks,” she says, “but you won’t necessarily be able to prevent them entirely. Lotions and oils claiming to reduce them can’t really stop stretch marks from forming.” Appearing red, brown or purple during pregnancy, stretch marks typically fade afterward and become less noticeable over the years, though they never disappear.
- Chloasma: Brownish or yellowish patches that form on the skin around the eyes, cheeks and nose, chloasma is also commonly referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.” These patches are typically triggered by changing hormone levels, but sun exposure also contributes, Dr. Gaither says. “Wearing sunscreen and a sun hat are good tactics to protect your skin and may minimize your chances of developing chloasma,” she adds, noting that these spots also tend to fade or disappear after childbirth.
- Linea nigra: A dark line extending down the center of the lower abdomen, linea nigra doesn’t appear on every pregnant woman, Dr. Gaither says. “It’s less common than stretch marks and chloasma,” she explains. It resolves in the months after delivery.
- Rash: An itchy, bumpy red rash, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy, affects a minority of women, Dr. Gaither says. Typically developing on the belly, the rash may also extend to the thighs, arms and buttocks. “Talk to your doctor about safe ways to deal with the itch and relieve your symptoms,” she advises.
Hair and nail changes in pregnancy
During pregnancy, hair typically remains in the “growth phase,” meaning your mane is likely to grow and thicken luxuriously, Dr. Gaither says. But this growth phase also extends to other body hair, which isn’t necessarily as desirable. And after delivery, the trend abruptly changes.
“Just after childbirth, many women experience hair loss, since the growth phase stops,” she says. “While worrisome, hair loss tends to taper off within about six months after giving birth.”
Perhaps less noticeable to some women are fingernail changes that occur while expecting. “Some women find their nails become much stronger, while others report their nails become brittle or softer,” she explains.
In a nutshell, you’re likely to experience some skin, hair and nail changes during pregnancy, but exactly which ones differ for each woman.
“Some women love the way they look during pregnancy, reporting their skin and hair are better than ever,” explains Dr. Gaither, who regularly lends her commentary and expertise on issues pertaining to women’s health, pregnancy and public policy to leading national outlets. “But regardless of any skin or hair changes they experience, most are temporary and they can expect to resemble their normal selves sometime after giving birth.”
Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, a perinatal consultant and women’s health expert, is a double board-certified physician in OB/GYN and Maternal-Fetal Medicine in New York City. Dr. Gaither is Director of Perinatal Services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, a member of NYC Health + Hospitals System in Bronx, New York.www.keciagaither.com