Are fighting to get the pregnancy glow? Hormonal changes in pregnancy can affect your appearance in surprising ways, writes Isabelle McDermott
Many women look and feel better than ever during pregnancy, while others find that pregnancy has the opposite effect on their appearance.
However pregnancy affects you, the changes will be temporary and you’ll be back to your normal self soon after the birth.
You may find that your skin looks better in pregnancy due to hormonal changes, mild fluid retention, and increased blood flow.
These can all result in smoother skin and are responsible for the famous “pregnancy glow”.
On the other hand, you may find that your skin gets drier and spottier and you may need to take extra care of it during pregnancy.
Skin also tends to darken during pregnancy, although the reason for this is unknown.
One possible explanation is the increased levels of oestrogen and melanocyte-stimulating hormone, which stimulates skin pigmentation.
During pregnancy many women develop stretch marks, which can occur on tummies, breasts, hips or legs.
These initially appear as pink or purple lines and may be quite itchy. After pregnancy they fade into pale, silvery white wrinkles.
Nobody knows for sure why these occur, but they probably result from a combination of pregnancy hormones and your skin stretching.
You’re more likely to get stretch marks if you’re very young, if you gain a lot of weight in pregnancy, or if you have a very big baby.
Commercially produced creams or oils are safe to use and may help minimize stretch marks by maintaining the elasticity of the skin, but unfortunately there is no guarantee that they will prevent them.
The best advice is to avoid putting on excess weight and to drink plenty of water to keep the skin well hydrated.
Hair and Nails
Hair stays longer during the growth phase of pregnancy, meaning that your scalp hair is likely to grow and thicken.
Not so welcome is the fact that facial and body hair may also increase.
After the birth, many women find that they lose a lot of hair as the growth phase stops. You should find that your hair is back to normal within six months.
Fingernails may also change, often becoming stronger, although some women find that they become softer and brittle.
Nails may develop white spots or transverse grooves, but these are rarely anything to worry about and don’t mean that you are lacking in vitamins.
Pregnant women are more prone to tooth decay (dental caries), bleeding gums, and chronic gum infection (periodontal disease).
Poor dental health not only affects you, but can also have an impact on your baby.
Studies have linked infection in the gums in pregnant women to premature birth, and if a woman has ongoing tooth decay after the birth, her baby may acquire bacteria directly from her saliva, leading to tooth decay in the child later on.
It’s therefore important that you take good care of your teeth during pregnancy and visit your dentist and dental hygienist.
Routine dental treatment and local anaethetics are safe in pregnancy, but it is advised to leave the replacement of amalgam fillings until after the birth.
Many worry about having their teeth x-rayed in pregnancy.
The radiation exposure from dental x-rays is minimal and the risk to the baby probably negligible.
However, dentists will only perform x-rays during pregnancy when it is unavoidable – if you need root canal treatment for example.
What’s safe and not
Beauty Treatments & Cosmetics
Body wraps / hot tubs These raise body temperature, which is unsafe for you and your baby.
Heat exposure from a hot tub in the first three months can increase the risk of spina bifida.
Facials The cosmetics used for facials are thought to be safe.
Hair and nail products Shampoos, conditioners, manicures and pedicures are safe.
Minute amounts of hair dye may be absorbed through the skin, but there’s no evidence that this affects the baby.
Chemical hair straighteners and curlers are also thought to be safe.
Piercing Facial piercing or piercing the tummy button, nipples, or genitalia isn’t advised as you’re at a higher risk of infection.
If you have a tummy piercing already, you can change a metallic ring for a flexible plastic retainer made from PTFE (polytetrafluprpethylene).
Nipple rings can affect breastfeeding, so remove a ring before birth so the skin can heal. Vaginal or vulval piercings are best removed to avoid damage at birth.
Tanning Tanning beds aren’t advised because of harmful UV rays.
The beds can cause your body to overheat, which can harm your baby, and UV rays may break down folic acid.
Tanning lotions are safe, but do a patch test first to check for allergic reactions.
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