Worried about blotchy skin during pregnancy? (Part I)

You are pregnant, and over the moon.

Everybody is fussing over you, and giving you all kinds of delicious stuff to eat. You keep dreaming about your baby, and the thought of holding him/her in your arms makes all the discomfort worth it.

Pregnancy and pigmentation

But there is a problem.

Your skin has developed blotchy spots and they are all over your face, and even your abdomen. Don’t panic. It is very common for pregnant women to develop dark, pigmented spots on the skin. It is a condition called melasma gravidarum or chloasma. It is often referred to as the mask of pregnancy because the splotches typically show up around your upper lip, nose, cheekbones, and forehead in the shape of a mask.

Many women also develop linea nigra, which is a dark, vertical line that runs down vertically over your navel right till the end of the abdomen. The linea nigra is caused by the stretching of the abdominal muscles which develop pigmentation. Actually, even before your pregnancy, you would be having a linea alba, which is a white line that runs from your belly button to your pubic bone. However, you might not have noticed it as it is the same colour as the rest of your skin.

Causes of chloasma

Chloasma or melasma is more pronounced in women who have dark skin. Hereditary also plays a role. Parts that are exposed to the sun may also develop dark patches, such as the forearms and the feet. These effects may be more pronounced with the number of pregnancies you have. Your nipples, genitals and other sensitive parts may also turn darker. These pigmented areas generally return to normal after a few months of pregnancy. However, in some women, it may take longer, or may never completely disappear.

But what causes chloasma? Well, it is the over-production of hormones during pregnancy, which stimulate a temporary increase in the amount of melanin your body produces. Melanin is the natural substance that gives color to your hair, skin, and eyes. And if this is your first pregnancy, you are more likely to develop pigmentation. Regular exposure to sunlight worsens the condition.

While it is not possible to completely eliminate pregnancy pigmentation, there are several things you can do to minimize the problem.

We will discuss these in a subsequent post.

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