Stretch Marks and Other Skin Changes

Worried about the dreaded stretch marks of pregnancy? Just about all pregnant women are. The good news is that only about half of pregnant women get stretch marks.

Stretch marks are red, pink, or purple streaks in the skin. Most often they appear on the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and breasts. These scars are caused by the stretching of the skin, and usually appear in the second half of pregnancy.

The color of stretch marks depends on a woman’s skin color. They can be pink, reddish brown, or dark brown streaks. While creams and lotions can keep your skin well moisturized, they do not prevent stretch marks from forming. Most stretch marks fade after delivery to very light lines.

Other Skin Changes

Some women notice other skin changes during pregnancy. For many women, the nipples become darker and browner during pregnancy. Many pregnant women also develop a dark line (called the linea nigra) on the skin that runs from the belly button down to the pubic hairline. Blotchy brown pigmentations on the forehead, nose and cheeks are also common. These spots are called melasma or chloasma and are more common in darker-skinned women. Most of these skin changes are caused by pregnancy hormones and will fade or disappear after delivery.

Tingling and Itching

Tingling and numbness of the fingers and a feeling of swelling in the hands are common during pregnancy. These symptoms are due to swelling of tissues in the narrow passages in your wrists, and they should disappear after delivery.

About 20 percent of pregnant women feel itchy during pregnancy. Usually women feel itchy in the abdomen. But red, itchy palms and soles of the feet are also common complaints. Pregnancy hormones and stretching skin are probably to blame for most of your discomfort. Usually the itchy feeling goes away after delivery.

In the meantime, try these tips to feel better:

  • Use thick moisturizing creams instead of lotions on your skin.
  • Use gentle soaps.
  • Avoid hot showers or baths that can dry your skin.
  • Avoid itchy fabrics and clothes.
  • Try not to get over-heated. Heat can make the itching worse.

Rarely, itchiness can be a sign of a serious condition called cholestasis of pregnancy. If you have nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice or fatigue with itchiness, call your doctor. Cholestasis of pregnancy is a serious liver problem.