Mama Mia! Skin Conditions During Pregnancy

May 12, 2019

Woman treating skin conditions during pregnancy

It’s no secret that a mother’s body experiences numerous changes during pregnancy, so it’s no surprise that your skin is not exempt. During pregnancy, it’s important for moms to make some changes to their skincare routines to stay healthy from the outside in. In this special Mother’s Day blog, we take a closer look at some of the common skin conditions experienced by women during pregnancy and treatment options that are safe for mom and baby. These include:

Hyperpigmentation, Mask of Pregnancy, and Linea Nigra

These benign conditions are caused by an increase in melanin production due to the surge of pregnancy hormones. Hyperpigmentation refers to the darkening of the skin in any area. Most woman experience some degree of hyperpigmentation, during their pregnancy. The two most common forms are melasma “mask of pregnancy” and linea nigra. Mask of pregnancy causes dark splotches on the face, usually on the nose and cheeks. Linea nigra leads to a dark line from the belly button to the pubic area. In most cases, this skin darkening clears after pregnancy.

Stretch Marks

Striae gravidarum, more commonly referred to as stretch marks, are very common during pregnancy, and they may appear as reddish streaks along the belly and breasts. Following pregnancy, your stretch marks may not fully disappear, but they do typically lighten to a less obvious silvery-white coloring. There are also a number of topical treatments you can use to diminish the appearance of stretch marks during and after pregnancy.

Pregnancy Acne

The increase and change in the production of specific hormones during pregnancy can lead to excess secretion of oil, which can cause breakouts. Most women do well cleansing their faces a little more frequently, using store-bought cleansers with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, or glycolic acid that are specifically formulated for acne treatment. In severe cases, we may try a prescription option. Both store-bought and prescription strength vitamin A retinol can also be beneficial.

Skin Tags

Another benign condition, skin tags are small buildups of skin that may occur anywhere on the body. They are most common on the arms and breasts. There is nothing you can do to prevent skin tags, and we don’t usually recommend removal during pregnancy. However, they’re easily removed following delivery.

Vein Changes

There are a number of vascular (vein) changes that occur during pregnancy due to deviations in estrogen production, leading to dilation, instability, and congestion in the blood vessels. Spider veins are the small, usually painless red lines that appear on the face, neck, and arms. Varicose veins usually cause discomfort. Varicose veins usually appear on the legs, vulva, vagina, and rectum. For painful varicose veins, there are some steps you can take to relieve symptoms, including limiting long periods of sitting and standing, keeping legs uncrossed, elevating legs during sleep, exercising regularly, and wearing support hose.

Eczema During Pregnancy

Eczema and other pre-existing skin conditions can worsen during pregnancy, but even if you don’t typically struggle with eczema, you may experience this condition when you’re expecting. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, itchy, and irritated skin. Expecting mothers with eczema should avoid hot showers, tight clothing, chemical-laden or medicated body washes or lotions, and any products that typically irritate their skin. Daily use of moisturizers and other topical treatments may be recommended. In more severe cases, we may recommend oral and/or topical steroid creams and other therapies.


PUPPP sounds a lot less complicated than Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques, but that’s what it stands for. Pregnant women often develop rashes and itchy skin that are categorized as PUPPPs, which causes itchy, red patches on the skin. PUPPPs are most common around the stretch marks during the third trimester. PUPPPs can spread to the arms, legs, and buttocks. While the condition is irritating, it will not harm the mother or her baby. There are a number of treatments that can be used to handle the symptoms, including topical steroid creams and antihistamines.

Preexisting Skin Conditions During Pregnancy

If you suffer from any skin conditions before you get pregnant, the odds are good that hormonal changes during pregnancy will only exacerbate the condition. If you suffer from atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, fungal infection, acne, or cutaneous tumors, make sure you work with your dermatologist to establish a plan to handle these conditions at every stage of your pregnancy.

Less Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy

In addition to the above skin conditions, there are also a number of less common conditions you may experience, including:

  • Cholestasis of pregnancy – this is itchy skin caused by liver disease due to pregnancy hormone production adversely impacting the flow of bile.
  • Prurigo of pregnancy – tiny bumps that look like insect bites and are often very itchy. In some cases, it may take months after delivery to completely clear up.
  • Pemphigoid gestationis –this autoimmune disorder causes blistering most often on the abdomen. Pemphigoid gestationis can also increase the risk of preterm birth.
  • Intrahepatic cholestasis (ICP) of pregnancy – a pregnancy-induced liver condition that causes itching and rashes on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and the entire trunk of the body. This condition can be very dangerous, so it’s important to work with your dermatologist and physician to control its effects.
  • Impetigo Herpetiformis – this is actually a form of psoriasis occurring in the second half of pregnancy. In addition to developing skin rashes and pustules, women with this condition may also experience gastrointestinal discomfort, chills, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Pruritic folliculitis of pregnancy – typically occurring in the second and third trimesters, this condition causes papules or pustules to develop around the hair follicles.

Skin Conditions During Pregnancy? U.S. Dermatology Partners is Here to Help!

If you’re experiencing any of these conditions, the experts at U.S. Dermatology Partners can help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help keeping your skin healthy at any stage of your pregnancy and throughout your lifetime. Fill out our convenient appointment request form and a member of our team will be in touch to schedule your appointment.

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