What Is Pregnancy Glow?

Beautiful glowing pregnant woman in pink dress poses for a maternity photo outdoors

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If you're expecting, you might hear strangers or friends eagerly tell you that "you're glowing!" And while the bloating, exhaustion, and nausea that comes with being pregnant might make you feel anything but radiant, a phenomenon that's frequently called "pregnancy glow" can make the skin of some birthing people look brighter and dewier.

But what's the science behind the popular term? And is it actually a real thing, or just another one of those old wives' tales?

Like pregnancy itself, "pregnancy glow" can look different on different people, points out Marisa Garshick, MD, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Centers and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York Presbyterian-Cornell.

Some pregnant people find they have more color in their face along with clearer skin, while others have the opposite experience. Instead, they may notice skin flare-ups and new conditions they haven't dealt with before.

Whether you’ve received compliments about your "glowing" complexion or feel like your skin is acting out big time, here’s what you need to know about pregnancy glow and other skin changes that may crop up throughout those nine months.  

What Causes Pregnancy Glow?

While it may seem like complexion improvements during pregnancy are brought on by magic, the truth is that hormonal changes are responsible for an increase in oil production, which might make the skin appear radiant. Additionally, Dr. Garshick explains that your blood vessels expand to support blood flow to your baby, and a boost in blood circulation can contribute to a brighter complexion. 

The change in blood volume is also significant. “In pregnant women, blood flow can increase by 50% or more during pregnancy—that’s a lot,” says Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN based in Washington, DC. “All that extra volume has an impact on how blood vessels look and can contribute to flushing.”

Because estrogen can make blood vessels more permeable, they can appear even more pronounced on the face and cheeks, Dr. DeNicola adds.

That said, pregnancy glow isn’t necessarily the norm. Many of Dr. Garshick’s patients notice acne or rosacea during pregnancy as a result of increased oil production. Pregnant individuals may also notice brown skin patches around the forehead, cheeks, and nose. The good news? All of these conditions are likely temporary.  

How Long Does Pregnancy Glow Last?

While some people only notice an increased radiance during the first and second trimester, pregnancy glow can last throughout the nine months, Dr. Garshick says. But as hormones fluctuate after delivery, that glow might fade away. Similarly, you may notice that skin conditions worsened by pregnancy will begin to improve once you no longer have a baby on board.

Other Skin Issues During Pregnancy

Unfortunately, not all people experience a boost in radiance in response to hormonal changes. In fact, these changes can lead to skin conditions in areas even beyond the face.

Those same hormonal shifts responsible for pregnancy glow can also contribute to discoloration around the face, breasts, nipples, and thighs due to extra melanin. Acne can also be a side effect during pregnancy. Luckily, dark spots tend to fade after delivery, and acne can be treated with either over-the-counter products or prescriptions.

If you have concerns about pregnancy acne, dark spots, or any other skin conditions, please be sure to reach out to your OB/GYN, dermatologist, or healthcare provider. Additionally, anytime you notice new skin patterns that weren't there before, it's always a good idea to seek medical advice from a professional.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy glow is caused by a shift in blood flow and hormones while expecting. It might last for the entire nine months, and then taper off after your baby is born.

If you’re pregnant and experiencing skin changes that don’t fall under the umbrella of “glowing,” there’s no need to be alarmed; those will likely dissipate after delivery as well. But if your skin conditions are bothersome, it’s always best to speak with a board-certified dermatologist or your healthcare provider to determine what course of treatment would be best for you.

2 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.
  1. ACOG. Skin conditions during pregnancy.

  2. Sanghavi M, Rutherford JD. Cardiovascular physiology of pregnancy. Circulation. 2014;130(12):1003-1008. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.009029

By Elizabeth Narins
Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, editor, and social media strategist whose favorite workout is chasing her toddler. Her work has been published by Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Parents, Health, Bustle, and more.