Some women, particularly after that problematic first trimester is out of the way, have that famous pregnancy glow. Thanks to an increase in the amount of blood in your body and all the hormones flying about, your skin (sometimes!) looks brighter and healthier, hair looks thick and glossy, and nails grow faster and stronger.
But, for every pregnant woman looking and feeling good, there’s several who are dealing with the more undesirable effects that pregnancy can have on their skin. In this article, we look at some of them and what you can do to help alleviate them.
Varicose Veins and Broken Blood Vessels
While the increase in blood volume can help with a pregnancy glow, it can also cause veins to swell and break, leading to unsightly varicose veins and spider veins. Some of these will disappear once you have given birth, but you may find some remain for months, or even years, afterward. To help, do some gentle exercise. Swimming is always the best one because you are taking the pressure off while you’re in the water. Foods rich in vitamin E, such as sunflower seeds and wheat germ can help to repair capillaries which have been broken.
If they begin to feel painful or swollen, soak a compress in witch hazel and apply it to the affected area. It can be really soothing. If you are unlucky enough to suffer from the dreaded hemorrhoids or broken or swollen veins in more intimate areas, iced compresses may help, or a cold bath (if you can bear it!) before bed. Post birth, you might want to consider a tightening gel with Manjakani extract.
This is also known as chloasma and the slightly terrifying sounding ‘mask of pregnancy.’ This is pigmented patches of skin, usually on cheeks, chin, forehead and around the eye area, although it can be found all over the body. It is thought to be caused by the increase of estrogen and progesterone in the body while pregnant, which stimulates an excess in production of melanin. This is exacerbated further when the skin is exposed to the sun. It can also be caused by a deficiency in iron, protein and vitamin B12, and higher levels of stress can be a factor as well.
To prevent these darker patches of skin, which affect up to 50% of pregnant women, from appearing, use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, Make sure it is SPF15 at an absolute minimum. Make sure you eat foods rich in iron, protein and vitamin B12, and speak to your doctor if you think you are deficient, particularly in iron. Last, but not least, try to stay as calm as possible. Pregnancy can be a stressful time, but make sure you take some time for yourself and relax as much as you can.
As the name suggests, these are marks caused by the stretching of the skin to accommodate a growing baby. They usually appear in the last few months of pregnancy on the stomach, breasts and upper thighs, and can look quite ‘angry’ and red to begin with. While they will never completely disappear, they will eventually fade to a silvery grey color. Some people are more prone to them anyway, but there are a few things you can do to help.
Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to keep your skin supple, and reduce both the risk of getting stretch marks and the appearance of them if you do get them. Keeping an eye on the amount of weight you gain is also important. Naturally, you will gain weight – there is no escaping that – but you only need to increase your calorie intake by around 200 calories a day – Preventing unnecessary weight gain takes the pressure off your skin, and you are less likely to get them, although there are never any guarantees.
Some women are unfortunate to suffer from acne during their pregnancy, thanks to the increase in hormones. Androgen encourages the skin to produce more sebum, which can clog pores, leading to a breakout of spots.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot that can be done about pregnancy acne, other than maintain a good hygiene and cleansing regime, as most acne treatments can cross the placental barrier and be harmful to your baby. While it might be no comfort while you are dealing with it, it’s always useful to know that in most places, it will clear up once you have given birth and your hormones reduce to their normal levels.