By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
When you are pregnant, your body goes through an entire battery of hormonal and physiological changes that can have serious repercussions on your appearance, including your skin.
Increased estrogen and the stretching of skin around the waistline and breasts (as well as in other parts of the body) can lead to a plethora of biological changes, some of which can have permanent effects.
“One of the biggest dermatological concerns pregnant women complain about is the development of stretch marks,” explained Gladys León Dorantes, president of the Mexican Dermatology Foundation (FMD) and head of Guerrero’s Innovative Clinical Care and Epidemiology Unit.
“This condition is the result of the stretching of the skin in the abdomen, breasts, derriere and thighs.”
Léon Dorantes said that more than half of all Mexican women will develop stretch marks (known in the medical world as striae gravidarum) during pregnancy.
Hormonal changes and genetic predisposition can be contributing factors to this scarring of the skin, she said.
But there is really not that much women can do to prevent stretch marks.
As a rule, stretch marks are more visually noticeable in darker skin tones than in fair tones, Léon Dorantes said.
Avoiding excess weight gain during pregnancy (most obstetricians recommend a maximum gain of about 10 to 12 kilos during the nine-month gestation period) and keeping skin hydrated (especially in the areas that are prone to stretch marks) can help reduce their incidence.
There are specially formulated products on the market that are designed to help prevent striae gravidarum, but León Dorantes said that it is best to consult your dermatologist before using any topical product because many of them can contain chemicals that can penetrate the skin and potentially harm the fetus.
“Stretch marks are the battle scars of pregnancy, and they may not be the most attractive part of your gestation, but they are normal,” added Susana Canalizo Almeida, FMD secretary and head of dermatology at the Hospital General de México for more than 20 years.
“Don’t worry too much about them other than to monitor your weight and keep your skin moisturized during your pregnancy and lactation. Afterwards, there are ways to reduce their appearance, but those are through medical procedures that cannot be done during your pregnancy.”
Another major dermatological concern pregnant women face is rosacea, red blotches or flushing of the face.
Léon Dorantes said that Hispanic women are especially prone to rosacea and about 80 percent of Mexican women will experience it during their pregnancies.
She said that it is particularly important to avoid sun exposure during pregnancy since skin, always opting for a mild, mineral-based sunscreen (León Dorantes said that those made for children are the best).
“Women who have acne may also see flair-ups during their pregnancy, and they may see hyperpigmentation or dark spots occur,” she said.
“All of these conditions are the result of hormonal changes in the body, and they are not unusual or cause for serious concern, but they are definitely aggravated by exposure to UV rays.”
León Dorantes strongly recommended against using any products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid which could potentially lead to birth defects.
Her advice for treating all these conditions is to avoid harsh soaps and stick to soap substitutes (such as a glycerine cleaner) whenever possible.
“The idea when it comes to skincare during pregnancy and lactation is to keep it simple and to opt for natural products whenever possible,” said Canalizo Almeida.
“It is a good idea to make an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as you find out that you are pregnant so that they can help you avoid some of these problems.”
And if any unexpected changes occur during your pregnancy, she said, be sure to consult a dermatologist immediately.
“Pregnancy is a wonderful time for women, but it can wreak havoc with your skin,” said Léon Dorantes.
“Knowing what to expect and taking measures to minimize the changes that occur in your skin during pregnancy can do a lot to prevent skincare issues later down the road.”