Skin care for mothers-to-be

Stretch-marks can appear in pregnant women due to weight gain or the skin getting shrunk by extreme weight loss

During pregnancy, levels of oestrogen and progesterone hormones are increased, and the body’s vascularity (blood flow) is also enhanced. While the latter renders a pinkish/radiant hue to the skin, the hormonal change causes a rise in oil and sweat secretion, as a result of which, the face looks shiny and glowing.

However, excess oil secretion can cause acne and therefore pregnant women should steer clear of high glycaemic index foods, such as processed carbs like bread and cheese, sugar and sweets, including sweet mangoes, says Dr Manjot Marwah, consultant dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon and director at Dr Manjot’s Clinic.

Dr Manjot Marwah

“Another skin problem during pregnancy is pigmentation. Melasma (brown patches on the skin), also known as chloasma, can be avoided by using a sunscreen having a minimum of 30 SPF. Also, eat iron-rich food, take iron and vitamin B12 supplements. Maintain the iron level even after pregnancy to resolve pigmentation problems,” she advises.

Thirdly, at this time, some women may find an increase in skin moles and appearance of linea nigra or a vertical dark line going down from the belly button.

Don’t worry about this, as this skin condition automatically reverses post pregnancy. Stretch-marks are quite upsetting for women too. If they use moisturizing lotions, creams or oils twice a day right from the third month of pregnancy (even before the pregnancy becomes visible), stretch-marks can be minimized or controlled to a great extent,” she adds.

Dr Sheetal Agarwal, consultant gynaecologist at Apollo Spectra, Delhi, says, “Most pregnant women suffer from Hyper-pigmentation or darkening of the skin, which occurs due to an increase in melanin level during pregnancy. Melanin is the substance in the body mainly responsible for skin colour (pigment). Skin tags are another common issue in pregnant women. It can be described as a small flap of tissue that hangs off the skin but is not cancerous and is painless unless something rubs against them. They can be usually spotted on the neck, chest, back, under the breasts and in the groin.”

Dr Sheetal Agarwal.

The doctor says, “Acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis are also seen in pregnant women but usually these conditions tend to improve after the birth of the baby. Another problem is varicose veins. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy lead to twisted enlarged veins visible on the legs. Stretch-marks can appear in pregnant women due to weight gain or the skin getting shrunk by extreme weight loss. Stretch marks are initially reddish or purplish in colour and become glossy and streaked in silver or white as time passes,” she adds.

Hair care

Talking about hair care, Dr Manjot says, “Pregnant women should refrain from hair colouring, streaks, chemical treatment for hair straightening and perming, because hair-colouring and styling products contain harmful formaldehyde among other chemicals. To minimise the hair fall, use shampoos containing moisturizers, preferably herbal. Even post-pregnancy, chemical hair treatment should be avoided for some months, and new mothers should take multivitamin tablets daily till the hair fall comes under control. Further, immediately after pregnancy, gel nail extensions, glittery eyelashes and bright hair streaks should be avoided as these may cause irritation to the new-born.”

Chemicals – What’s OK and what’s not

According to Dr Manjot, Salicylic acid-based face wash, products containing glycolic acid and azelaic acid are safe to use especially, for acne. Vitamin C and niacinamide can help in pigmentation problems. However, retinols (found in some anti-aging creams and acne creams) should be avoided, she cautions. Since allergic tendencies increase during pregnancy and chances of infection are high, women should avoid experimenting with new or unknown perfumes, avoid body piercing, and tattoos and kali-mehndi, she stresses.

Skin care for new-borns

The new baby’s skin needs special care too. Neonatologists share tips on this:
Dr Madhuri Prabhu, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Chennai, says, “Massage the baby’s skin gently and dress the baby in loose-fitting, lightweight clothing which covers the arms and legs to avoid direct exposure to the sun. Bathe the baby in lukewarm water. Keep baths short, between five and 10 minutes, so that the baby’s skin doesn’t dry out. Use a fragrance- and dye-free baby soap when washing your baby’s hair and body. Avoid using perfumes that can cause skin allergies.”

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