Fighting Adult Skin Conditions: Is There Help for Your Acne?

Learning More About Common Skin Problems That Can Occur During Pregnancy

by Art Bishop

The changes that occur in the body during pregnancy can affect your skin in different ways. Stretch marks, acne, rashes, dark blotches, and spider angiomas (broken vessels) are common when a woman is expecting. Since existing skin conditions also can get worse or improve, it helps to know what potential skin problems to look for and why they can happen.

Problem: Stretch marks. Many pregnant women develop pink, red, blue, or purple streaks on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, or thighs. While they aren't painful, you may not like the way they look, especially if they cover large areas.

Question: Why does this happen?

Answer: Stretching and pulling of the skin during pregnancy can cause stretch marks. Gaining weight during pregnancy, having a family history of stretch marks, and producing high cortisol levels are some of the risk factors. The natural rise in stress hormones during pregnancy can be a contributing factor as the hormone cortisone – a form of cortisol – weakens collagen (elastic) fibers in the skin.

Problem: Rashes. Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is a skin condition many women suffer during pregnancy. The condition is characterized by red, itchy, raised patches that normally go away postpartum.

Question: Why does this happen?

Answer: Although the rash usually develops first on the abdomen and then spreads to the breasts, arms, thighs, and buttocks, you can itch everywhere on your body, especially during the last trimester.

Problem: Spider angiomas. These tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin – which look web-like in appearance – often radiate from a red dot in the center.

Question: Why does this happen?

Answer: Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy may be the cause of spider angiomas – also known as spider veins – which can develop on the face, neck, chest, abdomen, or arms. The condition can occur when there are high levels of estrogen in your body or if you have a family history of weak blood vessel valves. The increase in blood circulation during pregnancy also can cause spider veins.

Problem: Acne. Existing acne often gets worse during pregnancy with breakouts occurring on the face, chest, and back.

Question: Why does this happen?

Answer: Hormone changes can contribute to acne, as the hormonal fluctuations that occur when you're pregnant cause the oil glands to secrete more sebum. In particular, the male sex hormone androgen increases during pregnancy, which can lead to clogged pores, creating an environment where bacteria thrive – a condition that causes blackheads and pimples to form.

Problem: Dark blotches. Because the skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, dark spots can appear on the forehead and cheeks.

Question: Why does this happen?

Answer: The extra hormones the body produces when a woman is pregnant cause an increase in skin pigmentation. Sun exposure increases the likelihood that you will develop dark spots on your face.

Problem: Worsening skin conditions. Atopic dermatitis can get worse and skin tags can increase in numbers when you are pregnant. However, other skin problems may improve.

Question: Why does this happen?

Answer: While increased hormone levels can cause the skin lesions associated with atopic dermatitis to get worse or develop for the first time during pregnancy, psoriasis – a condition characterized by red, scaling patches of skin – can improve when you're pregnant. The improvement may be due to the higher levels of interleukin-10 that cells release during pregnancy. Interleukin-10 is a protein that helps regulate the immune system.

Although the cause isn't known for certain, high levels of estrogen is a factor that may contribute to increased numbers of skin tags, which generally appear on the neck area or under the arms or breasts. Changes in your body's estrogen levels can cause moles to grow bigger during pregnancy as well. Contact a dermatology office, such as Sunflower Dermatology & Medical Day Spa, for more information.