Women who are expecting readily anticipate the so-called “pregnancy glow” and an expanding belly. But few realise that unwanted changes during pregnancy will likely come their way, too!
The most common (and wonderful) change during pregnancy is shiny, voluminous hair. By week 15 or so, your locks grow faster, look healthier, and seem thicker than before.
The credit goes to oestrogen, the same hormone responsible for morning sickness – the surge of which prolongs the growth phase of our tresses, resulting in less shedding and contributing to voluminous hair.
Some women also report a change in hair texture – from straight to curly or vice-versa.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
Unfortunately, this increase in hair growth isn’t limited to heads: excess body hair is a common unwanted change during pregnancy. Smooth ears begin to sprout; arms and legs can get a little furry. The prospect of wearing a swimsuit in public becomes horrifying.
In such instances, by all means, tweeze, wax and shave – these are safe hair-removal methods. Do refrain, however, from lasers or electrolysis until after birth.
Your mane attraction returns to normal three months postpartum. Then the opposite might occur – your hair is likely to start dropping. You may end up with bald patches, and baby grabbing fistfuls of your hair definitely won’t help.
Your gynaecologist or stylist may advise consumption of biotin pills and the application of hair tonic. These will help hair grow back faster, although you may have to bear with regrowth for a year or so.
A strange dark line running down the belly. Skin tags. Dry skin. Oily skin. Darker armpits, neck and groin. Freckles. Moles. All these and more are normal bodily changes during pregnancy. Again, you can thank oestrogen.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent these from happening, here are some ways to manage them:
- Chemical exfoliates such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA) are more effective than physical scrubs in reducing pigmentation. If you’re wary of the acid contained in a product during pregnancy, stick with glycolic acid (an AHA derived from sugar cane) or lactic acid (from lactose found in milk).
- Wear sunscreen. Your body’s pigment-producing cells are in overdrive during pregnancy, so being outdoors (or even near a window) without sunscreen could be a recipe for dermis disaster. Go for a minimum protection rate of SPF 30 and make sure it doesn’t contain oxybenzone, which has been linked to low birth weight.
- Drink plenty of water to keep skin hydrated and maintain a balanced diet.
Most, but not all, of these skin changes will go away after giving birth. If they persist and bother you, consult a dermatologist.
Note, however, that not all aesthetic procedures are safe for breastfeeding mothers or women who’ve recently had Caesarean surgery.
You’re so vein
During pregnancy, the increase of blood coursing through your veins adds pressure on your blood vessels. This causes your veins to swell, leading to the appearance of purplish spiderweb-like patterns on your legs and, for some, the face.
Varicose or spider veins are treatable but you’d have to wait until the baby is born. In the meantime, here’s how you can reduce their appearance:
- Try not to cross your legs when seated as this restricts blood flow. Istead, prop your feet up on a stool.
- Don’t sit or stand for long stretches; break it up by going for a walk or changing positions.
- Compression socks rock. They may not be the sexiest clothing but they do encourage circulation. Also, avoid high heels, sigh.
- Reduce your sodium intake as too much salt increases water retention and the swelling of veins.
The belly itch
Pregnant women are often seen stroking their stomachs, but not always out of sheer affection for their unborn baby. As the belly blossoms, the skin stretches and tightens, causing it to itch.
Hormonal changes and dry skin also play a part, but scratching only irritates the skin further and causes the appearance of stretch marks. Instead:
- Moisturise by applying stretch mark oil/cream to your abdomen twice a day. If you’re sensitive to smells, opt for something fragrance free. Keep the product in the fridge for cooling relief.
- Take lukewarm showers as hot water can further dehydrate the skin.
- If it is unbearable, inform your doctor, who may prescribe a topical cream you can apply before moisturising.
In for a sweat
A pregnant woman is likely to be hot and sweaty, even in air-conditioning – and the current heatwave certainly won’t help. This is especially common when nearing the third trimester: your body is trying to release the extra heat generated by hormones, blood flow, and metabolism.
This excessive perspiring snowballs after birth as your body gets rid of excess fluid and chemicals. Gingery foods consumed during confinement also make you sweat buckets. Manage this by:
- using a paraben-free antiperspirant deodorant;
- wearing loose, light clothing – though do stay away from grey clothing, which is notorious for showing sweat stains; and
- applying cornstarch powder, which helps prevent chafing.
Remember, it takes nine months before you can greet this new human life. Once you’re stronger, you can resume exercise, go for laser hair-removal therapy, have your eyebrows embroidered, even bleach your hair blonde – whatever you need to pamper yourself after all the changes your body has been through!
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This article was written by Chee Su Ning for makchic, a Malaysian-based online site for chic, curious, and spirited parents. makchic has been providing trustworthy and authentic family-related content since 2013. For diverse stories of parenthood that inform, support, and uplift all families, visit makchic.com and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.