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Pregnancy skincare

When you’re growing a baby, you expect to get bigger, but you may not necessarily expect the colour of your hair to change, or to suddenly get acne. Here are some surprising pregnancy symptoms you may not know about.

Acne
You may never have had a pimple in your life, and now suddenly you do. Pregnancy makes certain women more pimple-prone, since oil glands step up production when you’re expecting. On the other hand, if you had premenstrual breakouts before becoming pregnant, the extra estrogen may banish your blemishes. Topical retinoids (like Retin-A® or Tazorac®), which are prescribed to treat acne aren’t recommended during pregnancy. Your best bet is to wash with a mild cleanser and avoid harsh scrubs or peels that may only aggravate your extra-sensitive skin. (Talk to your Pharmacist for skincare options.)

Hair texture
Here’s a strange one. Some women find normally kinky tresses straighten, or straight hair starts to curl. And thanks to increased hormonal activity, “hair is less likely to fall out during pregnancy and often seems fuller,” explains London, Ont., public health nurse and prenatal teacher Deanna Stirling. Unfortunately, you’ll likely lose the extra locks after your baby arrives.

Itchy skin
As the skin on your belly stretches to new dimensions, it may itch in protest. Some women even develop an extremely irritating rash called PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy — sounds lovely, doesn’t it?), the cause of which isn’t exactly understood. While moisturizer may ease itchiness due to dry skin, you may need a dermatologist to prescribe medication for other conditions. Rarely, itching can be a clue your liver function isn’t up to par, so be sure to inform your caregiver if the urge to scratch disturbs your sleep or preoccupies much of your day, advises London, Ont., midwife Kathi Wilson.

Nails
The surge in circulation that occurs when you’re expecting may increase the flow of nutrients to your nails, making the tissue stronger. The result: tougher, faster-growing nails.

Pigment changes
Tired of your hair colour? Pregnancy may alter it so there’s no need to resort to messy dyes. Pigment production in the skin also increases during pregnancy, producing the linea nigra (the dark line connecting the belly button to the pubic area), and darkening the areolae around your nipples. Some women also develop pregnancy mask, which resembles an uneven facial tan.

Skin tags and spots
The same physiological changes that make your hair grow so luxuriantly can also cause less welcome growth. Skin tags are little balls of skin that appear under the arms or on the neck, and angiomas are red spots that sometimes linger after birth. Check with your doctor about any growths that rapidly increase in size, change colour or begin to bleed. Speak to your Pharmacist about some treatments for skin tags.

Vulvar varicosities
It’s not so much the what as the where that women find surprising about these relatives of hemorrhoids. Varicose veins on the vulva are common during pregnancy, due to the laxness of blood vessel walls, increased circulation and the pressure of the baby restricting the return of blood from the area. Varicosities feel worse when you stand still, so walk when you can, and lie down or put your feet up frequently to keep blood from pooling in your perineum. A baggie of ice chips can also ease aching, and some women swear by wearing bicycle shorts or support hose. 

DID YOU KNOW?
Some lucky women have more resilient skin than others, but for most of us, stretch marks are simply a fact of pregnancy. They most commonly appear on the abdomen, breasts and thighs as you put on more weight and your skin stretches. You can't prevent them, but you can minimize stretch marks by rubbing an oil or cream rich in vitamin E over your abdomen to keep the skin supple and keeping your weight gain within a healthy range by eating a nutritious diet and doing gentle exercise.