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The Face of Pregnancy

Some women handle pregnancy well… very well in fact. These are the women who seem to radiate with a glow. Their skin has never looked better and they appear to enjoy everything about their pregnancy. There is an explanation to support this new-found glow.  When you are pregnant, your body produces up to 50% more blood to support your growing baby.  More blood circulating makes your skin appear to glow. Additionally, higher levels of estrogen during pregnancy can make your complexion look more youthful and radiant.

However, you may be reading this and thinking, “What glow?” The other reality of pregnancy is what you may not expect to happen to your skin during those nine months of major changes. For some women, the shift in hormones can cause acne, chloasma (also known as the pregnancy mask) and itchy skin, to name a few.

Acne during Pregnancy

If you develop acne during your pregnancy, it is likely due to added estrogen in your system causing an overproduction of oil.  To treat or reduce your acne during pregnancy there are a number of things you can try.

Wash your face twice daily with an oil-free cleanser.
If you have oily hair, wash daily and keep away from your face.
Try not to touch your face that often and don’t pick or scratch at the acne.
Only use oil-free products on your face when applying makeup.
Discuss the over-the-counter acne products you are using with your doctor, as these can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

If these methods are not improving your acne, talk with your doctor about possible prescription medications to control your acne. Two common medications prescribed during pregnancy include Erythromycin (Erygel) and Azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea).

What is Chloasma?

As with other changes in your skin during pregnancy, chloasma is the result of added hormones in your system.  Also known as the pregnancy mask, Chloasma is a darkening of the skin on the forehead, nose and cheeks. It can appear as blotches or splashes of darker skin.  You may also notice other areas of your body with darker skin due to hyperpigmentation during pregnancy, including freckles and moles.

Chloasma usually remains until a month or two following the birth of your child. In the meantime there are a few things you can do to minimize the appearance.

Use sunscreen as much as possible. While the sun does not cause chloasma, it can make it look worse.
Eat foods high in folic acid like spinach, oranges and whole grain bread. Studies have shown folate deficiency can lead to hyperpigmentation during pregnancy.
Do not try skin peels or bleaches during your pregnancy. Instead, find a concealer that works well to cover dark blotches.

Will My Skin Stop Itching?

Itchy skin is a common complaint during pregnancy, affecting nearly two thirds of pregnant women.  Whereas hormones produce too much oil on your face, for the rest of your body they may be robbing you skin of oil and causing it to become too dry. However, your skin may be itchy during pregnancy due to other reasons as well, including rashes, higher estrogen levels, stretching, eczema and allergies, and even rare conditions that occur only during pregnancy. In the later stages of pregnancy a condition called PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) can cause itchiness in the thighs, abdomen, arms, and buttocks. A rare condition called cholestasis of pregnancy, can cause severe itchiness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and possibly jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Consult with your doctor immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms, as it could be a sign of a liver problem.

The best first course of action is to moisturize often with a sensitive unscented lotion. If that doesn’t resolve your itchiness, you may also want to try these ideas:

Don’t take hot showers. Hot water can further dry out your skin.
Use a humidifier at night to help add moisture into the room.
Avoid deodorant soaps which can pull moisture from your skin.
Use sunscreen daily.
Apply hand lotion immediately following hand washing.
Stay hydrated.

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