On average; most women gain 10 to16 kilograms during pregnancy. Many changes in our skin during pregnancy are triggered by an upsurge in female sex hormone levels; estrogen and progesterone. Some women’s skin will suddenly become dry or oily and even more common skin reactions are acne breakouts and skin rashes and some women can also develop pigmentation and acne.
Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr. Abdul Majeed Makkiya points out that although motherhood can be one of the greatest gifts life has to offer, certain scars left over from a C-Section in addition to the after effects of pregnancy can take a lasting toll on your body, especially your
breasts and abdominal areas. He adds, “Following child-birth, you may be left with stretch marks, sometimes unsightly scars after a C-section, weight gain in the hips, lower back, buttocks, and thighs.”
The good news, tells Dr. Makkiya, is there are solutions for these problems. “These women can be divided into two categories, as
follows,” he says.
Post C-Section Delivery
These women can do a few abdominal exercises 10 to 14 days after delivery. “They should also aim to consume good healthy food, avoid fatty food, increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their diet, and massage the abdomen with creams which contain vitamin E to help prevent
stretch marks and keep the skin tighter,” he explains.
Post Normal Vaginal Delivery
In this case, there is commonly a wound which needs around two weeks to heal. Therefore, Dr. Makkiya urges during this time not to do any exercise or lift any weight to prevent hernia formation. He advises to include a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables and to begin simple
abdominal exercises after one month and only lift weight after six weeks. “Also, use a good quality anti-scarring gel containing vitamin E to massage the abdominal scar and skin to soften the scar and enable tighter skin,” he tells.
Other Skin Problems
According to Dr. Maria Angelo- Khattar, MD, PhD, MSc Dermatology your weight is not the only thing that fluctuates in pregnancy. “Common problems that occur in pregnancy are due to the tremendous surge in female sex hormone levels; estrogen and progesterone. The skin reacts in various ways depending upon each individual case and it is not possible to predict the reactions,” she says. “The more uncommon skin problems that occur in pregnancy are broken capillaries and a generalized redness of the face, known as rosacea.” The skin can also become puffy due to edema which can be especially obvious in the eye area.
In almost all cases, the high titers of female hormones predispose to the skin to pigmentary changes. “Therefore, it is imperative for pregnant women to be extremely vigilant as far as sun protection is concerned,” advises Dr. Angelo- Khattar. “Also daily application and reapplication of a physical sunscreen is very important.” In fact, if an expecting mom is not careful, she can develop freckles and the dark patches known as
melasma, which is butterflypatterned pigmentation on cheeks and forehead, on the chin, and around the mouth. Exposure to sunlight will darken the patches, making them more obvious. Be sure to get enough folic acid by taking a folic acid supplement as research suggests that folic acid deficiencies may increase skin discoloration.
Often areas that were already pigmented to begin with; freckles and tiny moles, may now become larger and brown spots or areas may have enhanced darkness. New moles may also appear. The areola and nipples of your breasts will become darker, unlike other areas of your skin, which return to their original color after pregnancy.
Another big problem for expecting moms is sometimes their acne gets worse. Breakouts are common, even for someone who may have never suffered acne, on their face, chest, or back.
Many expecting mothers feel itchy everywhere all the time which can be embarrassing and unbearable. Known as ‘pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy’ (PUPPP) this is the most common skin condition specific to the last trimester of pregnancy. Women with PUPPP
develop small red bumps and hives, and when severe, the bumps form large patches. This rash usually starts on the abdomen and spreads to the thighs, buttocks, breasts, and arms. Talk to your GP about safe treatments and dabbing on calamine lotion should reduce the itching.
Taking Care of Your Skin in Pregnancy
The best way to take care of skin in pregnancy is to use a gentle soapy cleanser which has a neutral pH, since normal soaps are highly alkaline and will strip the normal acid mantle of the skin hence predisposing to excessive dryness and sensitivity. A gentle emollient is recommended for the body and facial skin to help to minimize the development of stretch marks and of course, most important, the regular use of a sunscreen.
According to Dr. Makkiya, there are different, new methods to correct stretch marks, as follows: Protein Rich Plasma (PRP) This uses an automatic multiple needle pen working at high speeds to create thousands of channels in the skin and is combined with PRP at the skin level and in the dermal area to stimulate collagen and elastin formation. This eventually fades the stretched skin away by shrinking and thickening the stretched out areas. “This ideally should be administered in a series of seven treatments spaced by one month each and then either every
six months or as needed to provide optimal results,” says Dr. Makkiya.
There is a new laser therapy that creates microscopic holes in the skin where the stretch marks are present as a way to erase stretch marks on the stomach, thighs and breasts with minimal pain and downtime. “This is known as the Icon System and has a fractional laser that uses heat to create microscopic channels deep within the skin while leaving the surface almost untouched,” he says. “These tiny injuries break down the scar tissue of the stretch marks triggering a natural healing response.” This method reduces stretch marks by 51 to 75 percent including those that are many years old.
Non-Invasive Treatments for Stretch Marks
For women who would rather not resort to invasive techniques for their stretch marks woes, Dr. Makkiya advises the following:
- Chemical peels which can be used to help with stretch marks.
- Microdermabrasion which improves the appearance of stretch marks using fine crystal spray to blast the outer layers of skin. Dead skin cells are removed and replaced by new healthy skin cells.
- Other modalities include Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Tri- Polar radio frequency device which can be used to help soften stretch marks.
- Creams are less expensive than other cosmetic dermatology procedures, tells Dr. Makkiya. “The good quality brands are generally very safe,” he says.
A New Mom’s Checklist to Regain Your Pre-Baby Body
- Aim to be more active. Stop making excuses about exercise. Even a 10-minute walk as a start is good and you can increase this duration over time.
- Start doing abdominal stretching exercises to tighten the muscles and skin.
- Eat well. Aim for quality nutrition every day. Post pregnancy is not the time for fad diets that deprive your body of essential nutrients. Learning how to balance your calorie intake and calorie expenditure will help you to lose weight at a sustainable rate.
Dr. Makkiya explains that “mommy makeover” surgery is specifically for women who want to restore the look of a prepregnancy body. “These procedures are designed to restore the shape of your breasts and tummies after the changes that have occurred during and after having a baby,” he says and is specifically for mothers who are not satisfied with their appearance of their bodies despite proper exercise and diet.
The process involves correction of any loose abdominal muscles and breast rejuvenation which includes breast reduction, breast lift, breast augmentation or a combination of these procedures also. “There are also lipo contouring procedures which involve the removal of fat deposits beneath the skin with vacuum assistance,” he explains.
Most women suffer hair loss at an alarming rate after post pregnancy. Founder/CEO of the Vivandi Group & Vivandi Hair Spa Amin Sheybani explains that Telogen Effluvium is the excessive shedding of hair that occurs one to five months following pregnancy. “This affects somewhere between 40 to 50 percent of women, however like most changes during pregnancy, it is temporary,” he says. The problem usually starts after you give birth. “Your estrogen levels take a tumble and a lot more hair follicles enter the resting stage,” tells Sheybani and soon you’ll have more hair coming out in the shower or on the brush. He is quick to point out that not all women notice dramatic changes in their hair during pregnancy. “However, the good news is that your hair will be back to its pre-pregnancy thickness about six to 12 months after you give birth,” he explains.
Tips to Reduce
Hair Loss after Delivery:
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, which contain flavonoids and antioxidants that may provide protection for the hair follicles and encourage hair growth.
- Use shampoos and conditioners that contain biotin and silica.
- If you need to use blow dryers and other heated hair instruments, use the cool setting.
- Supplement your diet with the following nutrients: vitamin B complex, Biotin, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc; all used in the proper dosages.
(Credit: Dr. Abdul Majeed Makkiya)