By Dr Sirisha Singh
Pregnancy marks the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the to-be parents, specially the mothers. Their body undergoes several changes and the pregnancy glow adds to their beauty. However, during pregnancy, hormone levels in the body keep fluctuating and the high levels of female hormones – estrogen and progesterone can cause several changes in the skin. These changes start manifesting themselves from the time of pregnancy but are most evident after the baby is born. But worry not as we may be able to minimize the damage with proper guidance and care.
Melasma is the most dreaded skin complication of pregnancy and almost 50% of pregnant women develop this problem although it may manifest several years after pregnancy. This is so common that it is also called “The Mask of Pregnancy”.
How to prevent it?
During pregnancy, apply a good moisturizer at night to keep the skin well hydrated. Use a sunscreen regularly to minimise the extent of pigmentation. The female hormones increase the sensitivity of the melanocytes, the pigment producing cells to UV light, so minimising the UV exposure of the skin can reduce the pigmentation. Eating brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, which are rich in anti-oxidants, help the skin cells to heal and recover following exposure to environmental toxins including UV light. This must be continued post-pregnancy as well to minimize UV exposure. In some rare cases, melasma eventually fades away with time but as it is very uncommon, it’s advisable to see a dermatologist to get the right treatment at an earlier stage.
Dermatologists usually prescribe creams, sunscreen use and also some tablets if required. In addition, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, mesotherapy or LASERs to help lighten the pigment may also be recommended.
Almost all women get stretch marks during pregnancy as the stretching of the skin causes fragmentation of the elastic fibres under the skin. During pregnancy and in the immediate post-delivery period, the stretch marks are red, however, with time they start to fade and appear as silvery lines. They may never disappear completely but do greatly reduce in the first few months after delivery.
How to prevent it?
The only way to reduce the appearance of stretch marks is by controlling the weight gain and the rate of weight gain. Most women put on 25-30 pounds during pregnancy; one must try and stay within this normal limit of weight gain. Also putting on weight gradually can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks as compared to sudden spurts of weight gain. Use silicone containing gels to massage into the stretch marks 3 times a day when it is red. Moisturising the skin regularly also helps in reducing the itching and irritation caused by the stretch marks.
The dermatologist may also prescribe retinoid containing creams. Treatments like deep chemical peels, microneedling and LASERs can also be used to reduce the stretch marks.
Lack of sleep, weight gain and the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy can result in dark circles and bags under the eyes, making you look very tired. Sleep deprivation after child-birth can further aggravate the problem and Thyroid problems can also cause these changes. Iron deficiency, which is very common amongst Indians, can also contribute to the dark circles.
How to prevent it?
Using a sunscreen regularly can prevent darkening due to UV exposure and a moisturiser containing Vitamin C or Vitamin K can reduce the discolouration. Reducing the salt intake at night and using eye-packs made of ice can help reduce fluid accumulation and diminish the appearance of bags under the eyes. A bag of green tea soaked in water can also be placed on the eyes at night to soothe the skin and the anti-oxidants released can decrease the pigmentation.
The doctor may prescribe some creams and ointments to be used in this area. Gentle peels containing glycolic acid or lactic acid may be used on a regular basis to relieve the discolouration. Certain LASERs may also help improve the appearance.
Loose skin that hangs in folds is common after delivery and hormonal changes during pregnancy contribute to it. This happens partly due to weight gain and associated stretching of the skin due to weight gain. The problem is particularly severe in the neck area, the arms, abdomen and also the breast tissue.
How to prevent it?
Eating a balanced diet during pregnancy and gaining weight in a slow gradual manner rather than a sudden spurt in weight gain is important. If there is significant fluid retention, then the doctor should be consulted to rule out underlying problems like thyroid. Moisturising the skin with a good moisturiser may soothe the skin and reduce the appearance of sagging skin.
After delivery, once the hormonal levels are back to normal, the skin texture often improves spontaneously. If the appearance of sagging skin still bothers a person, then non surgical facelift procedure may be carried out. Microneedling may also help improve the appearance. Results are slow to show and we may not achieve a perfect tightening of the skin. Surgery can be a solution for people who wish to have a drastic improvement.
Hair Loss Following Pregnancy
During pregnancy due to the effect of hormones, the hair cycle goes into “anagen arrest”’. In this, the scalp hair are stuck in the growing phase. The result is a thick lustrous crop of hair which feels and looks amazing. Sadly, this reverses 2-3 months after delivery. The result is a significant hair loss which causes panic amongst many women. Iron or other nutrient deficiency can also contribute to the problem of hair fall after delivery.
It is important to realise that hair loss is a temporary problem and will settle down in a few months. Iron or other nutrient deficiency should be looked for and supplements may be prescribed if required. Serums which have growth factors may be applied on the scalp to promote hair growth. Lifestyle factors like a healthy diet, good nutrition, dealing with stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising and drinking adequate fluids are essential.
Spider Angiomas are small red spots that appear on the face or chest of women during pregnancy due to the effects of estrogen. This is a benign problem and is not associated with any symptoms apart from the cosmetic appearance.
They often disappear spontaneously 3-4 months after delivery. If the affected individual is concerned due to the cosmetic appearance, ablating the spots with a LASER or using radiofrequency device can solve the problem.
So count yourself blessed and bask in the pregnancy glow with these tips from The Skin Centre and have a blissful time as you await the arrival of your bundle of joy!
About The Author:
Dr. Sirisha Singh, the founding member and partner consultant of The Skin Center, is highly qualified with 8 years of work experience in the United Kingdom. Dr Sirisha Singh is a well known name in the Dermatology and academic circles and keeps in touch continuously with all the latest trends in anti-ageing medicine and Dermatology by regularly attending and presenting in conferences. She is a trainer for LUMENIS and regularly trains other doctors on the use of skin LASERs. Dr Sirisha Singh is particularly interested in injectables for anti-ageing such as botulinum toxin and fillers.