Pigmentation

At just about any time during your pregnancy ou may start to experience some slight changes to your skin in the form of increased pigmentation and perhaps skin tags.  Your nipples may start to darken in colour and your Linea Nigra (a dark vertical line that often stretches from your belly button to your pubic area) may also start to appear.  Some women do not develop a Linea Nigra or get darker nipples until the last weeks of their pregnancy and some never experience these changes, but most of these pigmentation changes are reversible and will fade after the birth of the baby. Some women who happen to investigate down below report a darkening of their labia – this can be an alarming thing to see, but it normally reverts to the original colour after the birth.

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Some women may experience more extreme skin pigmentation changes on their face as a result of exposure to the sun.  This is called Chloasma or Melasma but is often referred to as the Mask of Pregnancy.  Patches are most common on the forehead, upper cheek, nose and lips. Wearing a very high SPF cream on your face can help to reduce the likelihood of this happening.  The pigmentation should start to fade after the baby is born, but if it does not, it can be worth consulting your doctor who may refer you to a dermatologist who can advise you on how to treat any pigmentation that is not fading.

You may also develop the odd red blotch, or skin tag, most obviously on your face or chest.  Again, these will fade after the baby is born.

 

Stretch Marks

Your tummy may feel itchy as it starts to grow and the skin starts to stretch.  You can apply creams such as E45 or your usual body lotion to help keep the skin hydrated and more elastic as it stretches.  If the itching becomes severe or localised, especially on the feet or hands, you should seek medical advice as soon as you can as this could be a sign of Obstretric Cholestasis.

Whether or not you get stretch marks during your pregnancy will depend entirely upon your genetics.  If your mother or sister had stretch marks during their pregnancy, the chances are that you will too. No amount of lotions or potions will keep these marks at bay.

Some women swear by treatments such as Bio Oil or Palmers Cocobutter, but whilst these can help with the discomfort of your skin stretching and keep your skin moisturised and in some cases even help fade stretch marks after the birth, they will not stop them from appearing.

 

Bleeding Gums or Nose

You may begin to develop a bloody nose as the mucus membranes in the body become thicker and blood supply to these areas is increased. If you did not snore before, this is the time when you may start to!  Nasal congestion can be a result of thickening of these mucus membranes.

Similarly the gums may be thickened and bleed more easily whilst brushing or flossing.  Dental hygiene is very important during pregnancy and you should continue to brush and floss as normal even if your gums bleed a little.  Whilst you are pregnant, and for 12 months after the birth, you are entitled to free dental care.  Details can be found on the NHS website.

 

Rashes

A small percentage of women (around 1 percent) may suffer from itchy red bumps or hives on their tummies in the last trimester of their pregnancy.  This is called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP).  The rash can spread to the thighs, buttocks and arms and although harmless to your developing baby, can be very uncomfortable and irritating.

If the rash is more like insect bites and is more prominent on your hands, feet, arms and legs then it could be papular eruptions of pregnancy (PEP).  Again, this rash is likely to appear in the third trimester and is not harmful to your baby, just annoying for you.

If you do develop a rash, you should let your midwife or doctor know so they can see you in order to make a diagnosis and then usually prescribe you some ointment for the itching.  In some cases you may need antihistamines or steroids.

Both should disappear soon after the birth and are not common in second pregnancies.

In very rare cases, a rash may erupt and blister, in which case you could have a condition called pemphigoid gestationis.  You should make sure you see your caregiver as soon as you can as this can be associated with growth problems for the baby.

 

Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins are swollen or enlarged veins usually seen in the thighs or legs.  They are more common in women than in men, and even more common in during pregnancy.  During pregnancy, the increased weight of the uterus, and the increased volume of blood and fluids can put pressure on the valves in the veins.  The pregnancy hormone progesterone, also makes the walls of the veins a little weaker, making them more susceptible to engorgement.

You are more likely to suffer from Varicose Veins if members of your family have them.  Excessive weight gain, standing for long periods of time, carrying more than one baby, and having successive pregnancies can all make you more susceptible.

They occur most frequently in the legs, but some women also suffer from them in their vaginas.  Whilst those in your vagina will usually disappear after the birth, the ones in your legs may not be so quick to subside.

Here are some tips to deal with Varicose Veins

  • Exercise and Walking can really help to keep them at bay.
  • Elevation of your legs when possible
  • Try not to cross your legs when sitting down
  • Try not to stand up for long periods
  • As the pregnancy progresses, sleep on your left-hand side to keep the pressure of your uterous off your vena cava (main vein)
  • Wearing support tights can also help by keeping the blood flowing back up towards your heart.

Varicose Veins are normally harmless, but if they get red, hot, tender or painful then you should seek medical advice to check you do not have a clot.

 

Hernia

During Pregnancy, the growing uterus can put pressure on the abdominal area, causing a hernia.  This is when a piece of abdominal tissue pokes through a weak spot in your tummy muscles.  You will notice a small lump in your tummy, which may get worse as the pregnancy progresses.  This may or may not hurt, but either way, you should tell your caregiver who may be able to push it back in for you.  If this is not possible and surgery is needed then this is usually done after the birth of the baby.