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Skin Changes, Issues, and Problems

While you are pregnant, so much of your body is transformed that it's tempting to attribute every physical change to your pregnancy alone. You should beware, though, of dismissing every skin change you notice. There is one you need to monitor carefully and there are a few others your physician may be able to help you with.

There are some skin changes that are nothing more than marks of motherhood. The most commonly feared and hated of these is the stretch mark, which shows up on about fifty percent of expectant mothers. Stretch marks are separations of the outer layers of skin caused by the overstretching of underlying layers. As your abdomen and breasts swell, you will find these reddish marks, and some may itch or be a bit uncomfortable. Rest assured that after the baby is born, they will fade and shouldn't bother you otherwise. There is no real effective way to prevent stretch marks, and they seem to run in families.

Heredity may also play a part in determining whether or not you develop vein problems. Pregnancy increases the risk. Varicose veins often pop up and out in the lower parts of your legs and thighs during pregnancy. [Many varicose veins become more pronounced as your pregnancy progresses and less pronounced after pregnancy, but some, like stretch marks, are permanent additions to your body.] Spider veins are less pronounced than varicose veins. They may be blue, red, or purple and look like spidery lines under your skin. They may show up on the legs, ankles, or face. Increased hormone levels, blood volume, and weight during pregnancy puts added pressure on the veins and may contribute to the development of varicose and spider veins.

You can prevent permanent damage to your vein walls by exercising regularly and trying not to stand still for too long. It's also a good idea to elevate your legs when you can, sit with your legs uncrossed, and wear good support hose. Some varicose veins are pain free, but others do cause a little or a lot of pain and discomfort. Remember, that the worst will disappear, but talk to your doctor if your pain is severe.

Almost ninety percent of mothers-to-be notice some darkening of their skin, and this is thought to be caused by high estrogen levels. This darkening almost always fades away once your baby is born, but until then you may find it on your face, on or around your nipples, in your armpits or perineum (the area between the vulva and the anus), on your inner thighs, and around your navel. Minimize the darkness of these spots by protecting yourself from the sun, and if you're very bothered by them, talk to your doctor. More severe cases can be treated by an ointment available by prescription.

Other skin changes pregnant women observe are red and itchy hands and feet, blotchy patches on their legs, easily removable skin tags (small, loose growths of skin) on their arms and breasts, weak fingernails, itchy abdomens, and, vascular spiders, (tiny, red, and bumpy "spiders" that can appear on their upper bodies, face and neck and disappear after birth).

The skin change you should concern yourself with most is not specific to pregnancy, but it's too often ignored during pregnancy. If you notice any change in the size, shape, or color of a mole, or if one of your moles begins bleeding, take it seriously and tell your doctor. You should be especially wary of any mole that grows larger, more jagged at its edges, or darker in color. If you have a large number of moles, you should examine them monthly throughout your pregnancy. It's one more way you can make sure that you're strong and healthy for the busy years ahead!


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