Being pregnant brings along a lot more than just an expanding belly. Here, some of the more commonly experienced modifications that you may experience during the nine-month period—some are temporary; others are more permanent.
- What they are: Medically known as striae, or striae gravidarum, stretch marks are scars in the skin that are lighter, or darker, than the natural skin tone. Stretch marks are first purple or red in color and when mature, transition to a white or silvery hue.
- Why they happen: The weight gained forces the skin to stretch out quickly. There is a ‘pulling’ on the dermis that causes the collagen to thin and be lost.
- Where they occur: Anywhere on the body but they usually develop on the stomach, breasts, thighs, hips and butt during pregnancy.
- How to prevent them: While there’s no miracle cream that can fully prevent stretch marks from forming (they are genetic to some degree), you may be able to minimize the chances of getting them, or reduce their severity, by keeping the body well moisturized.
- How to correct them: If you have bothersome marks that aren’t fading, your doctor can treat them with a laser, which may help reduce their visibility, although any results garnered are usually not permanent. “Using a laser like BBL, SkinTyte and/or a profractional can reduce the appearance of the redness, minimally tighten the skin and improve the texture,” says New York dermatologist Jody A. Levine, MD. They can also be excised during a tummy tuck—if they’re below the belly button, they’re cut out; if they’re above the belly button they are repositioned further down on the stomach.
- What it is: A dark, usually brown, line that runs down the stomach
- Why it happens: Technically a form of hyperpigmentation, the linea negra transpires during the second trimester because of an increase in estrogen and progesterone that causes a temporary darkening of the skin. “The rise in hormones causes the body to make more melanin,” says Dr. Jody Levine.
- Where it occurs: The middle of the stomach, starting at or above the belly button and stretching down towards the pubic bone
- How to prevent it: It’s next to impossible to prevent the linea negra from forming since it’s believed to be a hormonal byproduct
- How to correct it: In most cases, it fades on its own, usually within one year. In the event that it doesn’t seem to subside with time, ask your doctor for a prescription-strength skin lightener, which can help.
Varicose and spider veins
- What they are: Ranging in size, spider (smaller) and varicose (thicker, darker and more gnarled-looking) veins are enlarged veins near the surface that appear to protrude through the skin.
- Why they happen: “As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein that runs on the right side of the body, which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins,” says Dr. Jody Levine.
- Where they occur: Anywhere, but the legs are most common
- How to prevent them: Varicose and spider veins are hard to prevent. Keeping your legs elevated (don’t cross them), wearing compression stockings and exercising regularly can help stave off the effects.
- How to correct them: In most cases, spider and varicose veins let up after birth. But, in some women, they can stick around. When that’s the case, sclerotherapy can be used to correct them. “A mild chemical solution is injected into the damaged vein to irritate the walls of the vessel, causing it to collapse,” says Dr. Jody Levine. “The body then absorbs the vein and the blood is rerouted to a healthy vein.”
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