What Are the Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy?
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Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy and Their Management

Published on Jul 26, 2022 and last reviewed on May 11, 2023   -  7 min read


During pregnancy, changes in the body lead to many skin conditions. Read this article to know some of the skin changes that pregnancy can cause.

Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy and Their Management


A pregnant woman's body goes through various physiologic and hormonal changes, also reflected on the skin. Some of these skin changes are common, predictable, and considered normal, while others are severe and may lead to complications during pregnancy. Symptomatic treatment is needed to manage various skin problems during pregnancy. Most changes disappear once the baby is delivered. However, specific treatments for some conditions are required.

What Are the Common Skin Conditions in Pregnancy?

Common skin conditions during pregnancy can be categorized into three types:

A. Hormone-Related Skin Conditions:

Due to a surge in hormone levels during pregnancy, many skin changes are observed, most of which are benign and reversible.

Examples include:

1. Striae Gravidarum (Stretch Marks)- Scars that develop on the skin due to stretching, weight gain during pregnancy, or shrunken skin due to extreme weight loss postpartum are known as stretch marks or striae. It is commonly seen during the third trimester of pregnancy in areas of the abdomen, breasts, thighs, and buttocks. Stretch marks have a reddish-purple appearance initially and eventually fade to silver or white over time. Numerous creams, emollients, and oils are used to hydrate the areas with stretch marks. They might fade but never disappear. The postpartum treatment of stretch marks is usually ineffective; laser and prescription creams might help in some cases.

2. Hyperpigmentation- During pregnancy, the production of melanin (a natural substance that gives color to the skin and hair) increases in the body, thus resulting in skin darkening with dark spots and patches on the skin. These spots usually fade after baby delivery but may get retained for many years.

Preventive Measures: Wearing sunscreens and covering skin to prevent exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet radiation) during the day. Hyperpigmentation can recur in successive pregnancies and with the use of oral contraceptives. The changes are more evident in women with a darker complexion.

Affected Areas: The areolae, axillae, genitals, scars, and nevi. Abdominal linea alba darkens to linea nigra during pregnancy.

3. Melasma (Also Known as Chloasma)- Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation characterized by brown patches on the face, forehead, cheeks, or nose. Extremely common in pregnant women, also referred to as 'the mask of pregnancy.’

Prevention: Avoid exposure to the sun.

4. Hair- Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause an increase in the growth and thickness of hairs. Some women might develop hirsutism (excessive growth of dark or coarse hair in a male-like pattern) on the face, limbs, and back. Hirsutism resolves after delivery, but cosmetic removal may be considered if the condition persists.

After delivery, most women suffer hair loss which may last for several months to years after pregnancy. Complete hair regrowth usually occurs with time, but the hair may not be as abundant as before. In rare cases, male-pattern baldness and hypotrichosis are seen in women.

5. Nail- Nail growth is increased during pregnancy. Nails become brittle and soft; these changes are benign and can be managed by taking good care of nails. After delivery, nails may develop Beau's lines (indentations that run across the nails), which usually resolve without treatment.

6. Vascular Changes- Hormonal changes cause dilation, proliferation, instability, and congestion of the blood vessels. Most of these changes regress postpartum.

Various vascular changes leading to skin conditions during pregnancy are:

  • Spider Telangiectasias (Spider Nevi or Spider Angiomas)- small, red veins that affect the face, neck, and arms. The redness goes away after the baby's delivery. It occurs during the first and second trimesters.

  • Varicose Veins - Hormonal changes, increased weight, and pressure of the uterus can decrease blood flow from the lower body during pregnancy, causing painful, twisted, and enlarged veins- known as varicose veins. Mainly found in the legs, vulva, vagina, or rectum.

Prevention: Shorter periods of sitting and standing, uncrossed legs while sitting, elevate legs whenever possible, support hose, avoid constipation by maintaining proper fluids and exercise.

  • Swelling of the face and eyelids- non-pitting edema.

  • Vaginal erythema (Chadwick's sign) and a bluish discoloration of the cervix (Goodell's sign).

  • Oral Manifestations: Swollen and bleeding gums or pyogenic granuloma.

  • Other Vascular Changes: Palmar erythema, hemangiomas, purpura, petechiae, edema, carpal tunnel syndrome, or varicosities

B. Pre-existing Skin Conditions:

Pre-existing conditions may worsen or improve during pregnancy.

Examples include:

  • Atopic Dermatitis (a condition that makes skin red and itchy) - might improve or worsen during pregnancy.

  • Psoriasis (a skin disease that causes red, itchy, scaly patches) - usually improves during pregnancy.

  • Soft Tissue Fibromas (Skin Tags) - common during pregnancy, typically develop on the neck, chest, back, groin, and under the breasts; usually disappears after baby delivery.

  • Fungal Infections- during pregnancy, fungal infections require a longer course of treatment.

  • Cutaneous Tumors- like molluscum fibrosum gravidarum and malignant melanoma.

C. Pregnancy Specific Skin Conditions:

Some skin conditions are rare but explicitly associated with pregnancy. Most of these skin conditions resolve postpartum and only require symptomatic treatment.

Examples include:

  • Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP)- Most common disorder during pregnancy. Characterized by small, red bumps and hives, which may transform to itchy brown patches. These bumps first appear on the abdomen and may spread to the thighs, buttocks, and breasts.

  • Prurigo of Pregnancy- These are tiny, itchy bumps that resemble insect bites present throughout pregnancy. The symptoms often get worse with time. This condition may take several months to disappear, even beyond the delivery date.

  • Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)- It is also referred to as Pruritus Gravidarum. During pregnancy, it is the most common liver condition. Symptoms usually start at the third trimester and are characterized by severe itching of the palms of the hand, soles of the feet, or the trunk of the body. There is an absence of any lesions or rashes. This condition usually resolves after childbirth. In severe cases, it may cause preterm delivery or even fetal death.

  • Pemphigoid Gestationis- It is a rare autoimmune disorder of the skin that occurs during the second, third trimester of pregnancy or immediately following childbirth. Symptoms include blisters on the abdomen or over a wide area of the body in severe cases. The associated risk of preterm birth or a smaller-than-average baby.

  • Impetigo Herpetiformis (also known as pustular psoriasis of pregnancy or PPP) - It is a rare form of skin condition that occurs in the second half of pregnancy. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, and lymphadenopathy. Medical complications include secondary infections, septicemia, hyperparathyroidism with hypocalcemia, hypoalbuminemia. Systemic corticosteroids and antibiotics are used as treatment.

  • Pruritic Folliculitis of Pregnancy-It is characterized by follicular papules and pustules spread throughout the body, typically during pregnancy's second and third trimester. Treatments include topical Corticosteroids, topical Benzoyl peroxide, and ultraviolet B light therapy.

What Is the Treatment of Skin Conditions During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the skin conditions are transient and go away by themselves once the baby is born. Due to pre-existing conditions, if a pregnant woman is already taking some medications (steroids), then they must discontinue those medications and re-consult the doctor. If the conditions have severe symptoms, treatment is needed, pregnant women must consult a doctor before taking any medication.

Most of the treatments will provide only symptomatic relief, some of which are mentioned as follows:

  • Stretch Marks- Laser or prescription creams.

  • Melasma- Prescription creams (Hydroquinone), sunscreen lotions, and some over-the-counter skin care products. Limiting exposure to sunlight.

  • Skin Tags- Doctors can remove them off with a scalpel or electrosurgery (burning with an electric current).

  • PUPPP- Use topical corticosteroids, wash with lukewarm water, cold compresses or wet clothes to the affected areas, loose and lightweight clothing. Avoid using soap on affected areas.

  • Prurigo of Pregnancy- Use of moisturizers and topical steroids.

  • Intrahepatic Cholestasis- Medications to stop the itch. Cold baths can also help.

  • Pemphigoid Gestationis- Topical or oral corticosteroids.

  • Pustular Psoriasis of Pregnancy (PPP)- It is a life-threatening condition. In mild cases, the use of low doses of corticosteroids is done.

  • Pruritic Folliculitis- Application of Benzoyl peroxide, moisturizer with menthol, steroid cream or ointment application, and oral antihistamines provide symptomatic relief.

Some natural ways to relieve symptoms during pregnancy-

  • Use of scent-free skin products.

  • Loose cotton clothing.

  • Cold bath.

  • Rubbing ice on the skin.

  • Oatmeal bath once or twice a week.

  • Avoid exposure to sunlight.


Pregnant women undergo so many hormonal, physical, and emotional changes every day. The skin conditions during pregnancy is an addition. As most of these skin conditions are benign and reversible, thus pregnant women must not stress about these conditions. In severe unbearable cases, a doctor should be consulted, and the patient should take only prescribed medication to avoid any mishappening during pregnancy or damage to the fetus.

Frequently Asked Questions


How to Identify a Pregnancy Rash?

Pregnancy rashes are present as itchy, red patches around stretch marks, hives, scaly patches, small bumps, or flaky hyperpigmented skin. These rashes are mostly present in the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, or breasts. The pregnancy rashes are harmless and usually go away after baby delivery.


Is It Normal to Have Rashes or Eczema During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy-induced eczema is a very common skin condition during pregnancy. If a woman already has eczema, then it can flare up during pregnancy. The symptoms include small, rough, itchy, and red bumps that may have a crust.


What Is the Meaning of Atopic Eruption of Pregnancy?

Atopic eruption of pregnancy (also known as prurigo of pregnancy) is a skin condition that usually develops during the first half of pregnancy. They appear as tiny, itchy bumps that resemble insect bites.


What Is the Reason for My Sore Skin During Pregnancy?

The hormonal and vascular changes during pregnancy can make the pregnant woman more sensitive and prone to various skin conditions. The pregnant woman can have sore or itchy skin with rashes.


Can I Get Skin Problems or Rashes on My Face Due to Pregnancy?

Melasma or chloasma is a type of hyperpigmentation characterized by brown patches on the face. Extremely common in pregnant women, also referred to as 'the mask of pregnancy.’


What Does Eczema Look Like?

Eczema initially starts with itching, then the affected areas may turn red or dark brown, purple, or ash gray. The affected area becomes dry, scaly, and develops small, rough bumps or thick leathery patches.


Why Am I Getting Hives During Pregnancy?

Hives during pregnancy represent an allergic reaction to some food, medicine, insect bites, or any chemicals. It occurs due to hormonal changes, dryness, and stretching of the skin due to pregnancy. Hives can get triggered by scratching, stress, or pressure on the skin.


Is It Normal to Get an Itchy Body During Pregnancy?

Itching during pregnancy is very common. It can happen during pregnancy due to elevated levels of hormones in the blood. Intense itching all over the body is one of the main symptoms of cholestasis during pregnancy.


Am I Allergic to My Fetus?

It is an extremely rare scenario for a mother to get allergic to her own fetus. The allergic conditions usually subside within a few months after baby delivery.


Which Month in Pregnancy Does Itching Start?

The itching sensation in the belly usually starts in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. It usually occurs due to the expansion of the skin as the baby grows in size. The skin gets stretched and highly dry, so it feels itchy and uncomfortable.


Is My Itchy Skin Due to Pregnancy Hormones?

The increased levels of estrogen hormone are mostly responsible for itchiness on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The itchy belly skin is due to dry and stretched skin of the belly due to the increasing size of the baby.


Should I Be Worried About Body Itching During Pregnancy?

Mild itching during pregnancy due to increased blood supply to the skin is common, but it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. If the itching increases more in the evenings or at night, the pregnant woman must seek help from the doctors.


When I Scratch My Belly, Can My Baby Feel It?

The baby can feel the touch, stroke, or scratching on the tummy and might also respond to it by moving the hands, legs, or head.


How to Prevent Itching During the Night?

The following remedies can help to avoid itching at night during pregnancy-
- Wear loose cotton or natural organic fabrics.
- Apply moisturizer on the skin to avoid dryness.
- Drink more water and stay hydrated.
- Keep the room well-ventilated with moist and cold air.


What Are Some Safe Creams to Prevent Itching During Pregnancy?

The following over-the-counter creams or formulations can be used safely during pregnancy-
- Diphenhydramine+Zinc acetate cream.
- Calamine lotion or cream.
- Oatmeal bath.
- Hydrocortisone cream or ointment.
These creams have no known harmful effects, but it is always best to use them with consent from the doctor.


Can Skin Allergy Be a Sign of Early Pregnancy?

Skin rashes are not considered to be an early pregnancy symptom. Some rashes can appear later in pregnancy. Early pregnancy signs include breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, frequent urination, and missing regular menstrual periods.


Is It Possible to Get a PUPPP Rash in the First Trimester of Pregnancy?

PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) is a pregnancy-specific skin condition that shows on a pregnant woman’s belly at around 36 weeks into the pregnancy. These rashes are not seen in the second or the first trimester of pregnancy.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
11 May 2023  -  7 min read




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