How Does Skin Change During Pregnancy?

Pregnant woman applying cream to stretch marks

Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON/Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

So, you think your skin has changed since you've become pregnant? Well, it probably has. In fact, up to 90% of pregnant women report changes like hyperpigmentation, which is a common skin change in pregnancy.

The integumentary system goes through several alterations during pregnancy due to both hormonal and mechanical changes. Some of these may have been blown off as old wives tales, while others you may never have heard of before.

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How Will Pregnancy Change My Body?

Stretch Marks

Striae gravidarum or stretch marks are probably the most discussed of the skin changes during pregnancy. Nearly every woman fears them or at least thinks about them. They appear up to 90% of all pregnant women, usually showing up in the latter half of pregnancy. While the majority will be on the lower abdomen they can also be found on the thighs, hips, buttocks, breasts, and arms of women.

These are most commonly seen as small depressions in the skin. They tend to be pinkish in light-skinned women, and in dark-skinned women, they will be lighter than the surrounding skin. They reflect the separation of collagen of the skin. While not painful the stretching of the skin may cause a tingling or itchy sensation.

While many people will swear by certain creams or lotions, the truth is there's not much you can do about stretch marks, you'll either get them or not. There are some factors that you should know contribute to stretch marks:

  • Ethnicity (African American women get them less.)
  • Family (If your mom or sister has them, guess what?)
  • Nutritional Status (Well-hydrated and healthy skin stretches better.)
  • Weight Gain (Rapid or excessive weight gain will make these worse.)

So, what now? Well, eventually stretch marks do fade after you have the baby, becoming silver lines. While most women don't think about them much, or even consider them badges of motherhood, others want their stretch marks removed after pregnancy. There are new techniques and surgeries being explored all the time. Talk to your dermatologist or plastic surgeon if you are concerned about your own stretch marks. 

Mask of Pregnancy

Melanotropin is secreted in greater quantity during pregnancy, this can cause pigmentation to occur over the nose, cheeks, and forehead of an expectant mom. While it is not caused by sunlight, this will aggravate the situation. 45% to 70% of women will experience this beginning in the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. This will fade after birth. Many women use makeup to cover this if it becomes a problem. This is also called chloasma.

Linea Nigra

This is a darker line extending from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus (fundus), usually showing up for first-time moms around the third month. Multiparous women (someone who has had more than one child) will often see it earlier. While not all women experience this line, don't believe the rumors that it means a boy baby is on the way.


Thought it was gone for good? Think again, while many women actually find that the hormones of pregnancy relieve their acne and leave them with that "glowing" skin of pregnancy, many women find their skin becomes more oily and susceptible to acne breakouts. Here's where the high school remedies can come into play: Ensure that you are drinking plenty of water, wash your face, and avoid things that cause you to break out. Basically, do what works, but it doesn't have to be fancy.

Spider Veins

These can appear most commonly on the face, neck, chest, arms, and legs. They are caused by increased estrogen levels in your body. They are often star-shaped and slightly raised. They are slightly blue and do not turn white with pressure. 65% of Caucasian women and only 10% of Black women will experience these, which do usually fade after birth.

Palmar Erythema

A mottled or reddening of the palms of the hands. This is caused by increased estrogen levels during pregnancy. About 60% of Caucasian women will experience this, with about 35% of African American women too.

Other Facts

Lots of other physical changes happen in pregnancy, including the following:

  • Some women will have accelerated nail growth.
  • Others will notice a thinning of their nails.
  • Excessive hair growth may occur in unwanted places, fine or coarse. (Hirsutism)
  • Excessive sweating may occur during pregnancy 
6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Wehner M, Korgavkar K, Chren MM, et al. Interventions for established stretch marksCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;2017(9):CD010926. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010926.pub2

  3. Vora RV, Gupta R, Mehta MJ, Chaudhari AH, Pilani AP, Patel N. Pregnancy and skinJ Family Med Prim Care. 2014;3(4):318-324. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.148099

  4. Erpolat S, Eser A, Kaygusuz I, Balci H, Kosus A, Kosus N. Nail alterations during pregnancy: a clinical study. Int J Dermatol. 2016;55(10):1172-5. doi:10.1111/ijd.13316

  5. Gizlenti S, Ekmekci TR. The changes in the hair cycle during gestation and the post-partum period. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2014;28(7):878-81. doi:10.1111/jdv.12188

  6. Thurston RC, Luther JF, Wisniewski SR, Eng H, Wisner KL. Prospective evaluation of nighttime hot flashes during pregnancy and postpartumFertil Steril. 2013;100(6):1667-1672. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.08.020

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.