With pregnancy comes several significant changes to you and your body.
Your body shape changes, your hormone levels change, even your blood flow and pressure changes!
With all of that also comes changes to your skin, hair, and nails. For most women, most of these changes are completely usual and will return to normal after pregnancy.
How does your skin change during pregnancy?
There are several ways that your skin could change during pregnancy, most of which are perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of or worried about…
This is the big one that many women get self-conscious about, but let’s get one thing straight – guess what? Most normal people do not find stretch marks unattractive, they’re a fact of life, like moles, freckles or any other blemish, that’s if they even notice them in the first place!
The media bombards us with images of “flawless” female bodies with no blemishes at all, in poses designed to make their bodies more appealing or a plethora of make-up to give the model’s skin a smooth texture. The thing to remember is that these images are rarely natural.
Most of the women in these photos do not look like that without makeup, specialist lighting, or digital enhancement.
We are also bombarded with advertisements for products that claim they help reduce stretch marks, further fuelling the myth that they are an unattractive feature that you’d look better without.
Stretch marks come in a variety of forms, some appear red or pink, some brown, and some purple. Some women only develop stretch marks on their belly as their bump grows. Some will appear on and around the breasts as they become larger in preparation for breastfeeding. And some will develop stretch marks in other places, such as their bum and hips.
As mentioned above, there are many products out there that claim to help with stretch marks and there are many women that swear by some of these products to help reduce them too. But there hasn’t been any definitive and reliable research completed that has shown to reduce stretch marks or get rid of them completely. Some oils and creams may help make your skin more pliable and retain moisture, which may help reduce the chance of stretch marks appearing, but no product has been proven to reduce stretch marks.
Having said that, using moisturisers can help to reduce the itching and uncomfortable feeling that can often be experienced when your skin stretches. But remember, they’re a natural part of pregnancy and not as unattractive as you probably think they are.
You may experience outbreaks of spots and pimples reminiscent of your teenage years during pregnancy.
Pregnant women are often told they are ‘glowing’ during pregnancy. This is mainly due to an increase in blood flow as well as an increase in oil production. But the increase in oil production can sometimes cause a side effect – acne.
To treat any potential outbreaks of acne, the best thing to do is to look after your skin in the same way as is advised for teenagers suffering with acne – try to keep your skin clean and as oil free as possible.
But there are a few more things to consider during pregnancy as opposed to when you were a teenager. There are certain anti-acne drugs that can be taken for more severe cases of acne that may not be safe to take during pregnancy.
So, always check with your doctor and always read the labels of any over-the-counter acne creams, cleansers, or treatments to check that they are safe to use when pregnant (most should be). If you are unsure, check with your healthcare professional.
Chloasma? What is chloasma?
Chloasma is the medical term for what many call “the mask of pregnancy” and is normally comprised of darker patches, often brownish or yellowish in colour, around the eyes, cheeks, and nose. This happens due to an increase in melanin production, which is responsible for our skin’s pigmentation.
Chloasma normally fades over time, usually within the first few months after giving birth.
Recent studies have indicated that using SPF-50 or highly protective sun cream can help to prevent the development of chloasma and limit its effects. Staying out of direct sunlight can help too, as UV exposure can worsen it.
How can your hair change during pregnancy?
The pregnancy line, or linea nigra, is a line that sometimes forms and runs vertically down the centre of your bump.
It is formed in much the same way as Chloasma, due to the increase in melanin production, and disappears in much the same way too – normally a few months after the baby arrives.
Like with Chloasma, you can use a high factor sun cream to stop the linea nigra worsening.
How can your hair change during pregnancy?
As with the skin, there are several different ways that your hair can change during pregnancy. Any changes are due, in large part, to the increase in the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
But how does pregnancy affect your hair?
Shinier and thicker hair
One of the more positive side effects that pregnancy can cause is thicker and shinier hair. As a result of the increase in pregnancy hormones, your rate of hair loss can slow down. Because your hair loss rate has decreased, your hair seems much thicker with greater volume.
Your hair doesn’t magically become thicker during pregnancy, there is just more of it.
The average, non-pregnant woman sheds around 100 hairs a day. During pregnancy, the shedding phase is interrupted as the growth phase is prolonged. This results in less natural hair loss, making your hair look thicker and more voluminous.
This thicker, longer, and more voluminous effect on hair is usually more apparent in women with longer hair as opposed to shorter hair. This will normally stop after you’ve had your baby too.
Contrary to the above, hair loss is not very common during pregnancy as the increase in hormones usually causes the opposite effect.
Some women, however, may experience hair loss during pregnancy. This is usually not a side-effect of the actual pregnancy but more commonly a result of a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
The demands of pregnancy on your body can worsen existing vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may have gone unnoticed, which can result in hair loss in some cases.
While hair loss is rare during pregnancy, if you do experience it then increasing your nutrient intake through your diet will help. Getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals is best done by eating the right foods but, if you’re struggling to get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, supplements can help. If you do take supplements, make sure they are suitable for pregnant woman and consult your healthcare professional.
Many people also attribute hair loss after birth as a direct result of pregnancy and this can cause some confusion as to whether pregnancy causes hair loss. As stated above, hair loss during pregnancy is rare but hair loss after pregnancy can be quite common.
Hair loss in the first few months after pregnancy is usually a result of hormone levels returning to normal and thus the shedding phase also returning to normal. After months of experiencing thicker and more voluminous hair, it can come as quite a surprise to see more hair falling out when you brush it. But this is normally just the ‘extra’ hair you grew during pregnancy shedding and your hair returning to its more natural state and is nothing to worry about.
If you do feel that your hair loss during or after pregnancy is excessive and you are worried, it is always worth discussing it with your healthcare professional.
More body hair
More voluminous, lustrous, thicker hair is a bonus for many pregnant women… except when it grows in places you don’t want it to.
It is quite common to experience extra hair growth in areas such as your belly, nipples, face, and even on your bum!
This extra hair growth is perfectly natural, temporary, and nothing to worry about, however, and should stop within 6 months after giving birth. But if it is unwanted and you decide you’d prefer to go without, it is perfectly safe to remove the hair during pregnancy using your usual hair removal methods such as waxing, shaving, or electrolysis.
A dry scalp is often another frustrating symptom of pregnancy, more commonly appearing during the third trimester.
Causes of a dry and itchy scalp during pregnancy range from excessive stress and anxiety to poor diet to dehydration.
Due to the variety of potential causes, it can be difficult to pin down the specific cause of having a dry scalp, but it doesn’t hurt to improve your diet by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, and nuts and seeds, as well as increasing your fluid intake to ensure you’re drinking enough.
You can also help soothe a dry scalp with certain shampoos, moisturisers, and creams but just check they are suitable for using whilst pregnant and consult your healthcare professional if you are unsure or your dry scalp is causing excessive itchiness.
Dandruff is another common side effect of pregnancy. It can be caused by an increase in your body’s oil production which encourages new cell growth, meaning the old ones need to be shed. This can mean the skin cells on your head are discarded at a higher rate, resulting in more noticeable flakes.
Dandruff can also be caused by your skin becoming more sensitive to certain products that you use on your hair such as shampoos and conditioners.
To relieve dandruff, you can try using hair products with less chemicals in and use pregnancy-safe anti-dandruff shampoo.
As a result of an increase in sebum production (our body’s natural moisturiser), your hair can become greasier.
So, while some women enjoy luxurious and voluminous hair during pregnancy, others must endure oily and greasy hair.
To help combat oily hair, avoid using conditioner after shampooing. Conditioner is designed to help moisturise your hair after shampoo has stripped it of sweat, dead skin, and other oils and products. If you use conditioner while your body is producing more sebum, it is almost as if you are overdosing on it – adding moisturiser on top of moisturiser. So, there is really no need to use conditioner.
You can also shampoo your hair less frequently. Shampooing strips your hair of the oil and grease that it has become coated in naturally, as well as any dirt and residue build up. But, when your hair is stripped of oil, your body tends to produce more to compensate. By shampooing less and with a milder shampoo (no more than two or three times a week), your body will produce less extra oil.
One important thing to remember for both skin and hair issues experience during pregnancy is to make sure that you check that any treatments, such as creams, oils, and other products, are suitable for use during pregnancy. If you are unsure or feel that any of the symptoms experienced are excessive, it is always worth checking with your healthcare professional.
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