Changes to your skin during pregnancy

As your pregnancy develops, you may find that you experience changes to your skin and hair. Some women can develop dark patches on their face and hormonal changes can make your skin a little darker.

You may also develop stretch marks on your body, particularly around your stomach where your skin is stretching to accommodate your growing baby.

Chloasma - dark patches on the face

Some pregnant women develop dark irregular patches on their face most commonly on the upper cheek, nose, lips, and forehead. This is called ‘chloasma’. It is also sometimes known as ‘melasma’ or the ‘mask of pregnancy’.

Chloasma is thought to be due to stimulation of pigment-producing cells by female sex hormones so that they produce more melanin pigments (dark coloured pigments) when the skin is exposed to sun. Some women develop these patches when they take oral contraceptives (the pill).

Women with a light brown skin type who are living in regions with intense sun exposure are more likely to develop these patches. The patches usually fade over a period of several months after giving birth, though they may last for several years for some women.

Careful protection of the skin using broad spectrum sunscreens every day during pregnancy and while taking the pill may make it less likely that chloasma will develop. It is necessary to continue to use sunscreen after pregnancy as sun exposure may cause the patches to reappear. Some creams that need to be prescribed by doctors may help to fade the patches.

Skin and hair changes

Hormonal changes taking place in pregnancy will make your nipples and the area around them go darker. Your skin colour may also darken a little, either in patches or all over. Birthmarks, moles and freckles may also darken. Some women develop a dark line down the middle of their stomach, called ‘linea nigra’. These changes will gradually fade after the baby is born, although your nipples may remain a little darker.

If you sunbathe while you are pregnant, you may burn more easily. Protect your skin with a good high-factor sunscreen and don’t stay in the sun for a long time.

Hair growth can also increase in pregnancy, and your hair may be greasier. After the baby is born, it may seem as if you are losing a lot of hair but you are simply losing the extra hair.

Stretch marks

Many women develop stretch marks during their pregnancy, usually in the last 3 months.

They usually appear on your stomach or sometimes on your upper thighs or breasts. Stretch marks are not harmful and over time, your skin will shrink and the stretch marks will fade into white-coloured scars.