Between feedings, changing diapers and bathing, a new mom has plenty to contend with. The last thing she wants to deal with is bad skin post-pregnancy. Unfortunately, if a new mom had skin issues during pregnancy these may not disappear on their own after delivery.
“A woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels are out of whack during and soon after pregnancy. These hormonal imbalances can cause a woman’s skin to change,” explains Dr. Beatrice Wang, a dermatological surgeon who works at the Carey Wang Dermatology Center in Westmount, Quebec.
A new mom will usually see simple skin ailments like eczema, linea nigra (a dark line that forms vertically along the belly) or melasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy (a symmetrical hyperpigmentation on the face), disappear in the few months following the birth of her child. Other skin conditions, however, can linger, leaving a new mom frustrated and wondering how to reclaim her skin.
Jane Morgan*, a Montreal social worker and the mother of a two-year old boy, was one such woman. Her acne started once she got off the pill in order to conceive and it didn’t improve during or after pregnancy. “The acne started slowly. Then gradually spread from my face to my chest and back. My doctors attributed it to hormonal changes and I kept thinking that it would go away,” says Morgan.
Dr. Wang says that if hormones regulate themselves after pregnancy, acne can disappear. Morgan wasn’t so lucky. Her dermatologist prescribed a face wash and cream as part of her skincare regimen. But that wasn’t enough. She was only able to rid herself of her acne once she stopped breastfeeding and started taking Accutane. Because Accutane can cause severe birth defects, it can’t be taken while pregnant or breastfeeding. “You don’t want to treat anything drastically during pregnancy or while nursing,” emphasizes Dr. Wang.
Following the Accutane and upon her dermatologist’s recommendation, Morgan also decided to try Pro-Fractional laser treatment, which smoothed out the imperfections and scars left over from the acne. The sessions (three are recommended) were conducted six weeks apart. “It’s an hour procedure that is excruciatingly painful and very costly,” says Morgan, “but even though my skin will never be what it used to be, the laser was worth it.”
Generally the result of genetically weak valves, increased blood flow in the body and weight gain, varicose veins are yet another skin condition that can plague new moms. “What happens is that the valves don’t work so well, they don’t open and close sufficiently and so they swell up and transform into varicose veins,” explains Dr. Wang.
Some dilated blood vessels regress after delivery, so it’s recommended to wait and see what happens. “If they don’t, I would treat a new mom’s varicose veins just like any other patient’s,” states Dr. Wang, “they need to be removed by a specialised vascular plastic surgeon.”
Other methods for removing varicose veins are various laser treatments and sclerotherapy, where a doctor uses a needle to inject the vein with a liquid chemical that causes the vein’s walls to stick together, shut and eventually fade,
A cherry angioma, is a dome-shaped lesion, that ranges in colour from bright red to purple. It’s painless and harmless, and can be left untreated. Usually a cherry angioma is no bigger than a pinhead and doesn’t surface above the skin. But if a new mom finds herself with one that has grown and is protruding above the skin, she may want to remove it for cosmetic reasons. Removal can be removed through laser treatment, cryosurgery, where liquid nitrogen freezes the affected area, or electrosurgery, where a specialized electrical needle-like tool is used to remove the angioma.
Given that 90 percent of pregnant women get stretch marks, it’s expected that most new moms will notice the remnants of these on their bellies, thighs and/or breasts. The good news is post-pregnancy the stretch marks which may have started out reddish or brownish in colour now fade, turn white and become lighter than the skin that surrounds them. If not, there’s always the more drastic laser- treatment-route, which can help eliminate redness, reduce white marks and improve skin texture.
As of yet there are no treatments that can fully remove stretch marks and give a woman her former skin back. But if a new mom moisturizes daily, stays hydrated, exercises and eats nutritious foods, she will only benefit her skin and improve its elasticity and overall appearance.
New moms need to realize that the changes to their skin will not disappear as soon as their baby is born. As a new mom’s body needs time to heal from pregnancy and delivery, her hormones need time to re-establish their equilibrium. But if sufficient time has passed and a new mom is still unhappy with her skin, it’s important that she seek professional help. After all, given that skin is the body’s largest organ it needs to be taken well care of.
* The person’s name has been changed.