4 common skin concerns for mums during and after pregnancy
Pregnancy and the post-pregnancy period can be host to a range of skin issues. Find out what are the most common, and how you can prevent and/or minimise their occurrence.
Pregnancy and post-pregnancy are two periods in which a mum's body undergoes incredible changes. Closely linked to these changes are hormonal fluctuations and other factors such as the stretching of skin during pregnancy, that may result in not-so-glamorous stretch marks.
Here are some of the most common skin problems mums face during pregnancy and after, why these occur and what can be done to bring about relief.
1. Stretch marks
Probably the most common of all pregnancy skin woes, these 'stripes of motherhood' often appear during pregnancy and linger on post-pregnancy, too.
Stretch marks occur when your skin can't keep up with your body's growth or expansion, and the elastic fibres just under the skin break. During pregnancy, stretch marks commonly occur on the belly, thighs and breasts, and sometimes even on the buttocks and upper arms.
These marks often start out reddish or purple-hued, but often fade away to white or silvery lines. Darker-skinned women will often experience stretchmarks lighter than their skin tone, while lighter-skinned women will have pinkish marks.
While stretch marks are permanent in nature, their appearance can be improved by following a few simple guidelines.
- Right from when your baby bump starts growing, keep the skin on stretch mark prone areas of your body -- such as your belly, breasts, thighs -- well-moisturised. Then, even if you get stretch marks, it's likely that their appearance won't be too pronounced.
- Use a gentle and effective skincare product such as Bio-Oil on stretch mark-prone skin to keep it supple, soft and moisturised. Start applying Bio-Oil from the start of your second trimester, massaging it into your skin gently, twice daily, in a circular motion. It can also be used on existing stretch marks to help improve their appearance, as proven by a 2010 clinical study.
- Collagen and elastin fibres in the skin are necessary to keep rapidly growing skin taut, and the stronger they are, the less likely they are to break and leave resulting stretch marks, says Dr Karen Soh, Medical Director of Privé Clinic. It therefore makes sense to eat foods that are rich in Vitamin E and C, zinc and silica, which help to form collagen.
- Similarly, choose skincare products that contain pro-skin ingredients such as vitamins A and E, which are known nutrients for healthy skin. Vitamin A helps to promote the formation of new collagen and promotes skin renewal, and vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant loaded with benefits for your skin.
- Drink approximately 2 litres of water a day to help strengthen and renew your skin, while keeping it moisturised.
2. Mask of pregnancy
Some women get dark, uneven and blotchy spots on their forehead and cheeks during pregnancy. This is commonly known as the "mask of pregnancy" (also known as melasma and chloasma).
These spots, according to experts, are the result of hormonal changes related to pregnancy, which cause an increase in pigmentation. Around 50% of pregnant women experience this skin condition, which may also sometimes linger on post-pregnancy.
- To prevent melasma, women should avoid direct exposure to the sun both during and after pregnancy. This is because sun exposure can stimulate hyperpigmentation as well as darken existing freckles and spots on your face.
- Apply a good sunscreen whenever you are heading out -- even if you are only going to be sitting in a car, in the shade or on a plane.
- Use a good skincare product like Bio-Oil on the patches. Bio-Oil has been clinically proven to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone caused by melasma in just four weeks.
- Keep your skin hydrated and healthy by drinking plenty of water through the day.
Acne and dry skin are two other pregnancy and post-pregnancy skin conditions experienced by many women. Find out what causes them and what you can do to prevent or minimise these issues on the next page.
During pregnancy, the body produces more of the hormone estrogen in order to maintain a healthy uterine lining.
However, this increased hormone production may cause the oil glands in the skin to produce more oil, causing breakouts and pimples, even if you previously had clear skin.
If you already had acne before getting pregnant, you may find that the pimples get even more inflamed during pregnancy.
Many women also find that pregnancy acne carries over to the post-pregnancy period too, due to ongoing hormone fluctuations. And even once the acne subsides, the resulting scars can be an unsightly reminder of this common pregnancy skin problem.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and suffering from acne and breakouts, stick to a simple daily cleansing routine using a mild over-the-counter face soap or wash.
- Cleanse your face just twice a day, as washing your face more than this can cause your skin to dry out, aggravating the condition. You could follow-up with an astringent to get rid of any remaining oil, finishing your routine with a mild moisturiser.
- If you have stubborn acne or it is causing you worry, speak to your doctor for advise.
- Do not pick at pimples as this only makes the acne worse and leaves unsightly scars. If you suffer from acne scars, try applying a skincare product clinically proven to improve the appearance of scars, such as Bio-Oil. Massage a small amount in a circular motion into the scar, twice daily, for a minimum of three months. On new scars, apply Bio-Oil once the wound has healed.
4. Dry Skin
With all the stretching and growing your pregnant belly does over nine months, some mums may experience irritating and uncomfortable dryness and itchiness on their stomach. Sometimes, this dry skin* continues into the post-pregnancy period.
Other mums might notice red, flaky patches on their face -- a condition known as nonspecific dermatitis. This is caused by hormonal changes related to pregnancy.
*If you experience severe itchiness in late pregnancy, along with extreme fatigue, nausea/vomiting, jaundice and loss of appetite, see your doctor immediately. These symptoms could be indicative of a condition known as cholestatis, which is related to liver function, say health experts.
- Stay away from skincare products containing harsh chemicals which may aggravate the condition.
- Keep the skin on your stomach moisturised at all times by using a mum-trusted product such as Bio-Oil. Its natural blend of plant oils like chamomile, lavender and calendula really help soothe itchy skin. What's more, it supplements the skin’s natural oil layer, helping to restore and retain moisture in just a few days
- If you have nonspecific dermatitis, a good skincare routine similar to that used for acne (see above) should help.
- As always, drink plenty of water through the day to keep yourself and your skin hydrated.
Mums and mums-to-be, finally getting to hold, cherish and nurture your precious baby after nine long months certainly makes up for pregnancy and post-pregnancy related skin issues and other pregnancy woes.
But at the same time, it's important not to neglect yourself, and this includes your skin. We hope the information we provide in this article assists you in brightening that glow of motherhood that no skin condition can dim.
This article is brought to you by Bio Oil.