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Skin and hair changes during pregnancy

Most women have changes in their skin, hair, and nails during pregnancy. All of these are normal, and most of them go away after pregnancy.

Stretch Marks

Most pregnant women get stretch marks on their belly. Some also get stretch marks on their breasts, hips, and buttocks. Stretch marks on the belly and lower body appear as the baby grows. On the breasts, they appear as the breasts enlarge to prepare for breastfeeding.

During your pregnancy, your stretch marks may appear red, brown, or even purple. Once you deliver, they will fade and not be as noticeable.

Many lotions and oils claim to reduce stretch marks. These products may smell and feel good, but they cannot really prevent stretch marks from forming.

Other Skin Changes

Your changing hormones during pregnancy usually cause other skin changes.

  • Some women get brownish or yellowish patches around their eyes and over their cheeks and nose. Sometimes this is called the "mask of pregnancy." The medical term for it is chloasma.
  • Some women also get a dark line on the midline of their lower abdomen. This is called the linea nigra.

To help prevent these changes, avoid the sun, use a good sunblock when you are outside, and wear a hat and clothes that protect you from the sun. Sunlight can make these skin changes darker. Using concealer may be okay, but do not use anything that contains bleaches or other chemicals.

Most skin color changes fade within several months after you give birth. Some women are left with freckles.

Your Nails and Hair

You may notice changes in the texture and growth of your hair and nails during pregnancy. Some women say that their hair and nails both grow faster and are stronger. Others say their hair falls out and their nails split after delivery. Most women lose some hair after delivery. In time, your hair and nails will return to the way they were before your pregnancy.

Feeling Itchy During Pregnancy

About 1 in 100 women develop an itchy rash during their third trimester, most often after 34 weeks.

  • You may have itchy red bumps, often in large patches.
  • Most times the rash will be on your belly, but it can spread to your thighs, buttocks, and arms.

Lotions and creams may soothe the area, but do not use products that contain perfumes or other chemicals. These may cause your skin to react more.

To relieve rash symptoms, your health care provider may suggest or prescribe:

  • An antihistamine, a medicine to relieve the itching. (Talk with your doctor or midwife before taking this medicine on your own.)
  • Steroid (corticosteroid) creams to apply on the rash

This rash will not harm you or your baby, and it will disappear after you have your baby.

Alternate Names

Dermatosis of pregnancy; Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy; Melasma

Update Date: 8/23/2012

Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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