Most women have changes in their skin, hair, and nails during pregnancy. Most of these are normal and go away after pregnancy.
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.
Avoiding excessive weight gain during pregnancy can minimize your risk of getting stretch marks.
Other Skin Changes
Your changing hormone levels during pregnancy may have other effects on your skin.
- 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, wear a hat and clothes that protect you from the sun and use a good sunblock. Sunlight can make these skin changes darker. Using concealer may be ok, but do not use anything that contains bleaches or other chemicals.
Most skin color changes fade within a few 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
A small number of women develop an itchy rash during their third trimester, most often after 34 weeks.
- You may have itchy red bumps, often in large patches.
- The rash will usually 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 provider 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.
Dermatosis of pregnancy; Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy; Melasma
Kroumpouzos G. Skin disease in pregnancy and puerperium. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 48.
Review Date 11/19/2014
Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.