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Does pregnancy cause changes in your skin and hair?
Q: What kind of physical changes can I expect to happen to my skin and hair during my pregnancy? I’ve heard that your hair can start to fall out after you give birth. Please say it isn’t so!
A: Pregnancy can make your skin glow and your hair look full and shiny. The hormones of pregnancy increase blood flow to your face and make your skin produce more oil, which accounts for the “glow” of pregnancy. Less welcome changes may include acne, from the excess oil, and “spider nevi”, which are red spots with surrounding tiny red lines on your skin, resulting from increased blood flow to the vessels near your skin surface. Increased blood volume during pregnancy also results in more blood flow to your palms and gums, increasing the redness of these areas.

Pregnancy hormones also stimulate the colour-producing cells of your body, called melanocytes. You may notice an increased pigment of any freckles and moles, as well as darkening of your nipples and your “linea alba,” the visible line which runs from your belly button to your pubic hair. Chloasma, sometimes called “the mask of pregnancy,” also occurs in many women during pregnancy. This is an increase in pigmentation of sun-exposed skin and most commonly affects the face. Use sunscreen during pregnancy as you would the rest of the year, and wear hats and appropriate protective clothing during sunny weather. And don’t hesitate to show your health care provider any mole that changes in size, texture or shape.

Stretch marks occur in more than 90% of pregnant women in the last trimester. These are the result of overstretching of your skin, and occur as pink or purple bands on the abdomen, breasts and thighs. Despite the huge number of over-the-counter products advertised to prevent stretch marks, none are effective, so save your money. Your skin is responding to the amount of weight you are gaining and hereditary factors that are out of your control. Following the pregnancy, the colour of stretch marks will fade so they will be less noticeable.

Hair volume usually increases during pregnancy. Some women notice increases of hair on the face and chest, which also results from pregnancy hormones. Following pregnancy, many hair follicles go into a resting phase and more hairs will shed. It may seem like you are losing a lot of hair, but your hair is just readjusting to its pre-pregnancy volume.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist