Pigmentation when pregnant: What do I need to know?

pregnant woman cradling her bump in black and white

What with all the other bodily changes you’re going through when growing a new life, skin discolouration is probably the last thing you want to add to the list. Yet for many pregnant women, chloasma (pregnancy-related melasma), is a real issue.

What is chloasma?

Commonly referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy’, chloasma is the term given to darker patches of pigmentation which can form on different areas of your face – commonly forehead, nose, cheeks and neck. Dark underarms during pregnancy? Linea nigra – the dark line which runs down your belly? Yup – also forms of pigmentation, along with skin darkening along the inner thighs and around the neck, too. It is thought to affect up to 75% of expectant mums – usually during the first trimester – and for some, it can even be one of the first signs you’re pregnant! The darker you are, the more likely you are to get it.

Why does it happen during pregnancy?

Melasma occurs when the body makes extra melanin – the pigment responsible for skin, hair and eye colour and protecting against UV light. Increased pigmentation when pregnant usually comes about as a result of increased levels of hormones, but family history can play a part, too.

Read more about melasma here and here

What can I do?

For most women, pigmentation will fade completely within about a year of your baby’s birth. However, there are things you can do to help minimise its appearance in the meantime – both during and after pregnancy.

  • Be sun savvy. As ever, this should be top of your list, as being in the sun may darken the patches and make them more noticeable. Just think of this as your weekly reminder to use a sunblock with a minimum SPF of 30, wear a hat outdoors and stick to the shade as much as possible – pregnant or not! In fact, because UV rays can penetrate glass, you may even want to get used to applying SPF daily – whether you’re planning to leave the house or not. Read more about the importance of this here and here.
  • Folic acid. You should always take this while trying to conceive and in the first three months of pregnancy to help prevent spinal defects in the baby, but it’s definitely advisable to continue taking it throughout the nine months – especially as some experts believe that skin discolouration is linked to a deficiency in this vitamin. You can also make sure you’re getting optimum levels of it by ensuring it’s part of your diet. Foods that contain folic acid include leafy greens, oranges and whole grains.
  • Makeup. “Tinted moisturiser, foundation and concealer can all help to even out skin tone”, according to a BabyCentre article.
  • Switch contraceptives. Hormones can exacerbate or prolong the problem, so if you find the patches are becoming darker after a year or so, you may want to speak to your doctor about other alternatives.
  • Avoid irritants. Things like waxing and exfoliating, for example, can cause skin inflammation, which may worsen melasma.

woman smiling into mirror while exfoliating her skin

Image: Mahmoud99725/Flickr

  • Vitamin A. Retinol and retinaldehyde – various forms of vitamin A – are great at helping to speed up cell turnover production, which is vital in treating melasma. However, creams containing this may cause side effects so are best left until after pregnancy. There are plenty of vitamin A-rich foods that you can include in your diet, though, such as milk, eggs and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables! Liver is very rich in vitamin A – so much so that it’s not actually advised during pregnancy. Read more about the effect of diet on skin here.
  • Face peels. Our pregnancy-safe, O Cosmedics Enzyme facial helps to brighten and hydrate the skin, using only pure enzymes. We also have several other peels in the same range that can be used to help treat melasma, but always have a chat with us first about when would be best to have this (either during or after pregnancy.). Read more and book now!
  • Microdermabrasion. While this ultimate in exfoliation treatment is sure to help reduce pigmentation, thanks to its role in shedding dead skin and encouraging the turnover of healthy cells, it’s best left until after you’ve had the baby as it can be a bit abrasive on sensitive skin. Read more and book here.

Never underplay the importance of your happiness – both during pregnancy and after. You know what they say – happy mama, happy baby!

Book your treatment today!

Featured image: Tatiana Vdb/Flickr

 

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