Q. I am 11 weeks pregnant and have acne rashes on my chest and upper back, which I never had before, even in adolescence. My "pregnancy skin" is also very sensitive and prone to being overly dry, so I do not want to use any harsh acne-fighting products. Do you have any suggestions for treating these outbreaks?
A. I can certainly empathize with the hell of pregnancy skin. I, too, had bad acne, dry patches, oily patches and extremely sensitive skin. The good news is that the acne is usually just a phase that disappears in a few weeks. The dry/oily/sensitive skin also tends to improve as the pregnancy progresses.
In the meantime, try using a gentle cleanser twice a day and use a moisturizer for the dry patches that is specially formulated for sensitive skin. I found Neutrogena, Almay and Aveda products to work best for me as they don't contain lanolin, PABA or other irritating or allergy-causing substances.
Q. I have what seems to be a small skin tag on my vulva. At first I thought it was a small pimple, but it's definitely not that. I've heard about skin tags developing during pregnancy, but assumed they would be under my arms or on my neck. Help! Will it go away?! Can friction from intercourse cause skin tags?
A. It's true that the underarms and neck are usually the most populated by skin tags, but throw in the horror-mones of pregnancy and they can crop up just about anywhere. A friend of mine got one on her anus and assumed it was a teeny tiny hemorrhoid, but it never went away. Another friend got one on her nipple that she had to have removed as it made breast feeding very uncomfortable.
If your skin tag really bothers you, you can get it removed after the pregnancy. Intercourse will not cause skin tags around the genitals, but may irritate them. You may want to make sure the tag is well lubricated so it doesn't get pulled and irritated.
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Q. Is it safe to use lotions with retinal palmitate ingredients while pregnant?
A. As far as I can tell, small doses of retinal palmitate, as found in lotions, will not adversely affect a pregnancy. Even so, I do not recommend using these types of products. During pregnancy, a woman's skin usually becomes extremely sensitive and will be much more prone to developing rashes, sunburns, permanent hyper-pigmentation and scarring. The fewer irritants and chemicals you use on your skin during pregnancy, the better off you and your skin will be in the long run.
Q. I am 16 weeks pregnant and noticed a small skin rash near both of my eyes. The rash started out itchy, but now it just shows small red bumps with one bump looking bigger, almost like a small blister. Should I be concerned, or is this a normal symptom of pregnancy?
A. During pregnancy, the horror-mones progesterone and estrogen can cause many changes in the skin. They can cause the melanin cells to darken in random places. This is called the "mask of pregnancy" and usually appears on the forehead, cheeks and chin. Brunettes usually have more of a problem with this darkening or hyper-pigmentation. Using sunscreen and/or avoiding direct sunlight can help reduce the darkness of the spots.
The rash and red bumps you have are also a result of the horror-mones of pregnancy. Your skin becomes much more sensitive and is easily irritated by a number of things, including products that may contain a substance you might be slightly allergic to. You may want to try switching your facial soap and/or lotions to something hypoallergenic. I found Neutrogena, Almay and Aveda products to work best for me because they don't contain lanolin, PABA or other irritating or allergy-causing substances.
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Q. I have heard that the brown line (linea nigra) on the stomach means you are having a boy. Is this true?
A. From my experience, I would have to say no. I had a very dark linea nigra with both of my pregnancies and had two girls. I think the appearance of the line has more to do with the hormones of pregnancy and the coloring of your skin than the sex of the baby.
The linea nigra starts just under the navel and ends at the top of the pubic bone. The line, clinically referred to as "linea nigra," seems to be a pretty good indicator of how ripe your melon may be. The more prominent and dark the line is, the closer you are to giving birth.
I've heard that some Asian cultures believe the appearance of the linea nigra is a concentration of "chi." The "chi" energy, creating the new life force, causes hyper-pigmentation where it is most intense — the linea nigra.
Women with darker skin tones tend to get a darker line. During her last pregnancy, my friend Carla's line was a very dark brown/purple streak, separating her melon into two distinct halves. She thought that her belly would always look as though it had been sliced down the middle and she would be banished from bikinis forever. That was not the case.
It may seem impossible to erase such a permanent looking mark from your skin, but the line does fade after the baby is born-, usually enough to have your belly looking like its former self (if you don't count the sagginess and stretch marks, that is!).
It sounds like you heard just another one of those "old wives' tales," like if you carry high it's a boy or if you crave pickles and ice cream it's a girl.
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Q. I am 21 weeks pregnant with my second child. I have a few red spots under the skin on my legs that have been there for a few weeks. They are dime-to-quarter sized, sore when touched, red and feel like they have heat in them. I had this problem with my first pregnancy, too. My OB/GYN and my primary physician don't know what it is. I am not really concerned since I had this with my first pregnancy and they went away after delivery, but I am curious about what this is and why? Any information would be greatly appreciated!
A. I'm no medical expert, but I think your red spots sound like some kind of allergic reaction. During pregnancy, your body — your skin in particular — can become much more sensitive and have adverse reactions to certain lotions, foods or hormones. If you are really interested in finding out just what's causing these reactions, you can try changing your laundry detergent, skin lotions, shampoo and diet to see if anything makes a difference. Maybe you'll be able to pinpoint just what is triggering your spotty reaction.
Q. I had a baby two months ago and my skin pigmentation in some areas (genitals, arm pits and anal area) is still darker than usual. Will this ever fade? What can I do? Will it get darker if I tan?
A. You still have some time for your dark-skinned areas to fade. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, sometimes several months. But, do be aware that in most cases the skin on your nipples, genitals and anal area will be forever darker. Maybe not as dark as during the pregnancy, but they probably won't revert back to the color they once were.
As for these areas getting darker if you tan — I doubt it, unless you tan naked, spread eagle and have your arms up to the sun.
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Q. I am 19 weeks pregnant with my second child. I have noticed a dark brown spot inside my belly button. I have never seen it before and did not have it with my first child. Someone told me it goes along with pregnancy. Is this true or should I see my doctor about it?
A. Funny — I have that same dark brown spot inside my navel, and it didn't appear until my second pregnancy. I wouldn't worry. It is completely normal to acquire more and more freckles, moles, skin tags, varicose veins, broken blood vessels and stretch marks with each pregnancy. Ah, well. Chalk it up to the battle scars of pregnancy, I always say!
Q. I delivered my baby six weeks ago and the brown line on my belly (the linea nigra) has still not disappeared. Why not and what can I do to get rid of it?
A. It takes a few months for all of the hormones of pregnancy to leave your body. Until that time, you still may have patches of hyper-pigmentation on your skin, including the linea nigra. Don't worry, it should disappear in time. Keeping your belly hidden from sunlight will help it fade faster.
Unfortunately, skin changes such as new moles, skin tags, freckles and stretch marks will not disappear after pregnancy. They are here to stay unless removed.
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Q. I'm in my second trimester and I like to tan. Is it safe? I only go for about 15 minutes and keep a cold air conditioner aimed at my belly. I never even get warm enough to sweat.
A. Exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays from tanning beds poses no danger to the fetus, but it could be damaging to your skin, especially during pregnancy. The horror-mones of pregnancy may make your skin, like mine, much more sensitive and more likely to burn. You may also experience hyper-pigmentation (dark spots), especially on your face. This condition intensifies with exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays.
The freckles and spots that I developed on my face and hands became darker from the sun and never fully disappeared after pregnancy.
Q. I just recently became pregnant and I broke out in a rash all over my body. Is there any connection between the two?
A. Your skin condition might be pregnancy related. Your entire body can react differently to foods, lotions, detergents, perfumes, etc. Some women develop temporary allergies to certain products that never bothered them before. Your skin in particular is much more sensitive and prone to reactions during pregnancy. I had to switch my lotion, deodorant and shampoo during my pregnancies to products that are completely hypoallergenic to avoid getting hives.
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Q. Along with my morning sickness on several occasions I got what looked like hickeys all over my face and neck and had really red eyes from broken blood vessels. It usually went away a couple of days later. Fortunately, this has only happened four or five times and I'm 20 weeks now and past the worst (hopefully). Is this from an iron deficiency or just some weird problem with my skin? I don't think it was an allergy because it happened with a variety of foods or even on an empty stomach.
A. It is common for blood vessels to break around the face and neck while vomiting, straining or pushing during labor and delivery. While you are vomiting, many of your muscles, ligaments and tendons constrict and put a major squeeze on blood vessels trapped in the area. Under enough pressure, these blood vessels will pop and show up as red splotches on the skin or red spots in the whites of your eyes. During pregnancy, your blood vessels are much more swollen and prone to popping under pressure. Since you know the blood vessels in your face and neck are particularly sensitive, do be careful while pushing during delivery. My attending nurses always told me to push from my middle down. Don't push from the face or you'll end up looking like Rocky Balboa.