It would be a giant understatement to say that a lot is changing inside of your body during pregnancy (you are growing an entire human in there, after all). But what about what’s happening on the outside? We chatted with Dr. Omnia M. Samra-Latif Estafan, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist in Hamilton, New Jersey, about how your skin might change during this time.
6 Things That Might Happen to Your Skin During Pregnancy
Your skin might glow more than usual
Let’s start with a bit of good news. "Pregnancy increases blood flow by about 50 percent," says Dr. Latif. "In addition to this, your body produces more hormones that cause a surge in oil production." Increased circulation plus more oil equals next-level glow.
You might notice darker areas on your face and neck
The downside of that surge in hormones? "They also cause your body to produce more melanin than usual, which can show up as large patches of discolored skin on your cheeks, nose and forehead. That’s why it’s called the mask of pregnancy," says Dr. Lifta. To prevent melasma from getting worse, be vigilant with your sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat whenever you’re outside. And don’t panic: The dark spots will typically fade on their own after you give birth.
You might feel really itchy
Late in pregnancy, the skin on your stomach might start to itch uncontrollably due to your growing belly. Rarely, this can be the cause of a liver condition called cholestasis of pregnancy, so if the itching is severe, check with your OB to rule it out. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is keep the area well-moisturized. (Psst: We’ve heard that massaging olive oil on your skin helps—both with the itching and preventing stretch marks.)
You might get a line down your belly
One morning, you wake up and notice a weird line running from your belly button to your pubic bone. What the heck is this? It’s called linea nigra, which usually appears in the second trimester. The line will gradually fade a few months after delivery—but to help speed things up, Dr. Lifta recommends using a topical cream that has vitamin C or red algae.
You might get varicose veins
Remember that increased blood flow we mentioned earlier? That can also put pressure on the veins in your legs and feet, causing them to swell and protrude. (Sexy, right?) The best antidote is regular exercise and movement of any kind—walking, biking, swimming, dancing in your living room—basically whatever you feel the most comfortable doing. Compression stockings and propping your feet up when you’re sitting also helps.
Your hair might feel thicker
OK, this isn’t exactly a skin perk, but we still thought you’d like to know. This fabulous side effect usually happens at the beginning of the second trimester. The higher levels of estrogen during this time prolong the anagen or growth phase of your hair, which results in less shedding. (Plus, if you’ve been taking your prenatal vitamins religiously, you’re also getting an extra dose of biotin, which can make hair thicker and shinier.) There is a downside, though: The hair that didn’t fall out during pregnancy will shed once you give birth, but—and this is true of all of the changes we mentioned here—this is completely normal and things will eventually level out to where they were pre-pregnancy.