Updated 14 August 2017

Pregnancy and your skin

Pregnancy is a time of great hormonal and physical changes in the body. Unfortunately, these changes can also affect your skin.


Pregnancy affects the skin in a great variety of ways. Fortunately, most of these skin conditions disappear after the birth of your baby.

Broken blood vessels

Some pregnant women get a rosy glow – a result of an increased blood flow to the skin. But unfortunately this condition can also cause broken blood vessels on the surface of the skin. These are known as angiomas.

The same thing happens to many women who use oral contraceptives. Angiomas need no treatment, and should resolve within six to nine months after the birth of your baby, according to HealthCentral.

Stretch marks

In the third trimester of pregnancy, up to 90% of women can get stretch marks on the abdomen, thighs, breasts, or arms. This is caused by the actual stretching of the skin during pregnancy, and also by possible simultaneous weight gain. Hormonal factors, such as increased oestrogen production, also play a role.

These stretch marks, which is a form of scarring, usually start off red or purple in colour, and then later turn into a silvery white colour. They eventually become less visible after the birth of the baby, but never completely disappear. Despite claims from a myriad of manufacturers, topical creams haven’t been proven to prevent stretch marks or make them disappear. Laser treatment is a possible effective option.

Read: Stretch marks and how to treat them


The so-called mask of pregnancy refers to the darkening of sun-exposed skin during pregnancy. Up to 70% of pregnant women will experience this.

Chloasma or melisma, as it’s also known, most frequently affects the skin on the cheeks, forehead or upper lip. The skin turns a brownish colour because of the overproduction of pigment in the upper layers. Hormones are, once again, to blame. Fortunately, the use of sunscreen can help prevent chloasma from occurring, or becoming worse. The condition will resolve itself in most cases within a few months of delivery, according to the American Family Physician and usually doesn’t require treatment.

Acne and skin tags

Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can cause acne, or make existing acne worse. Some women find that their skin clears up during pregnancy. In most cases, the acne will resolve after delivery. During pregnancy, most doctors will recommend only symptomatic treatment.

Increased blood flow to the skin is thought to cause the proliferation of skin tags, especially around the neck. These are small, harmless growths of skin, which can easily be removed if they’re unsightly or bothersome. Many of them will disappear after delivery.

Read: Acne medication and pregnancy

Skin rash

The rash that typically occurs in the weeks before delivery is officially known as PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy).

This is a hive-like, itchy rash that often starts off on the abdomen and then spreads to other parts of the body. It more often affects women whose unborn babies are large, or who are expecting twins or triplets.

It’s an irritating condition, but resolves itself after delivery, and isn’t a health risk. Antihistamine or topical steroids can be prescribed to reduce the itching, according to DermNet New Zealand


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