Skin Changes in Pregnancy

By Dr. Sue Ann Chan

Whilst pregnancy can be a magical time for women, our hormonal changes can cause a variety of physiological skin changes. Our skin care expert, consultant dermatologist of the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dr. Sue Ann Chan discusses these changes.

Pigmentary changes

  • Darkening of a linear band over the abdomen (linea nigra)
  • Lightening of a linear band over the abdomen (linea alba)
  • Darkening of the areola and nipples of the breasts, flexural areas in our skin folds

Vascular changes

  • Telangiectasias on the skin
  • Palmar erythema (red palms)
  • Varicose veins

Stretch marks

These are another common occurrence, especially in those genetically predisposed and those who have gained excessive weight.

Post-partum hair loss

Various common skin conditions can also be made worst during pregnancy including eczema, psoriasis, acne, systemic lupus erythematosus and general itching. In addition, there are also pregnancy specific dermatoses including prurigo of pregnancy, cholestasis of pregnancy, pemphigoid gestationis and pruritic urticariated papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP).

It is important to see your doctor / dermatologist when seeking treatment during pregnancy as certain treatment used for the various conditions mentioned above may not be completely safe when you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Itching in Pregnancy

Itching can be a common complaint during pregnancy and can affect your quality of life during this important time of our lives. You may experience localised itching where the itch is only affecting specific areas of your body such as your hands, face or neck only; or generalised itching where the itch affects everywhere on your body. Generalised itching is usually worse at night.

Localised itching may be caused by common skin conditions including exacerbation of atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, seborrhoeic dermatitis, acne or allergic / irritant contact dermatitis. Certain infections such as scabies infestations and common yeast infections during pregnancy can also cause localised (and/or) generalised itching.

Generalised itching should be taken seriously during pregnancy as this may signify a variety of internal health and pregnancy related conditions including low iron levels during pregnancy, anaemia, cholestasis of pregnancy (changes in liver enzymes) and gestational diabetes.

Always seek advice from your healthcare provider when experiencing these symptoms during pregnancy.

Professional Biography: Dr. Sue Ann Chan

Dr. Chan qualified in July 2010 from the University of Aberdeen with the Lockhart Bequest Prize and subsequently obtained her Membership of Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP,UK) in 2012.

Dr Chan completed her Higher Specialist Training in Dermatology in the West Midlands as a Specialist Registrar looking after adults and children with skin conditions; and obtained her Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in 2018. Dr Chan is currently a substantive Consultant Dermatologist at the King’s College Hospital NHS Trust based at Beckenham Beacon and the Princess Royal University Hospitals.

During her training, she has developed a keen interest in Skin Oncology and is a team member of the Skin Cancer Cochrane Reviews on Diagnostic Tests Accuracy for Skin Cancers. In 2016, Dr Chan won the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) European Young Investigator Award for her research work in Skin Lymphoma. Other awards include BAD Best SpR Oral Presentation (Cutaneous Allergy Section 2017) and Midlands Dermatology Society Awards. Dr Chan is currently completing an MSc in Skin Ageing and Aesthetic Medicine.

Dr Chan is approachable and is able to speak English, Cantonese, Malay and understand Indonesian languages.

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