Skin Darkening During Pregnancy

Nearly all women will have some form of skin darkening during pregnancy. This condition is very common - perhaps this is why it has so many different names.

Let's see, there's hyperpigmentation, pigmentary changes, chloasma, melasma, and the good old mask of pregnancy.

These words all sound serious, but it's important to remember that the condition they describe often improves after childbirth. I know mine did.

Skin darkening during pregnancy is usually more pronounced in darker-skinned women. It's also more noticeable in areas of the body that have more pigmentation and are darker than the rest of the body - like the nipples and areolae. These areas do not usually return to their prepregnancy color.

The changes in pigmentation usually start in early pregnancy gradually increasing during the pregnancy. Often, they reduce or completely disappear after childbirth. Yes, they too will pass.

Freckles and fairly new scars may also darken so don't be alarmed if this happens to you.

The mask of pregnancy (also known as chloasma or melasma) is a type of hyperpigmentation that probably causes the most distress in many women. It occurs in over 50 percent of pregnant women. I'm not sure if that's any consolation but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

The "mask of pregnancy" is a seriously descriptive term. The more scientific terms (like melasma and chloasma) sound more like plants or diseases to me.

Anyway, back to the subject. The mask usually appears as blotches of light to dark brown irregular patches on the face. Kind of like a young child's attempt at painting, I think. Any part of the face may be affected, but it's often the upper lip and cheeks that are most noticeable.

More darker-complexioned women are affected by melasma. Hey, I know that doesn't seem fair, but that's just the way it is.

Sunlight seems to make the mask of pregnancy look worse so it's a good idea to avoid or reduce sun exposure if you're worried about this pregnancy skin condition. And, if you can't or won't stay out of the sun, then do use a good sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays.

If you are worried about melasma, do remember that most cases resolve on their own within a year of childbirth. A year may seem like a long time, but it really isn't - not when you've had a baby. Time just seems to whiz by then.

I don't see any point in risking the unborn baby's health by getting medical treatment for skin darkening. It's not a disease. And for obvious reasons, using skin lightening or bleaching products during pregnancy would not be (ahem) wise.

When you accept skin darkening during pregnancy as something that comes with the territory, you'll be less likely to find it distressing.

Hyperpigmentation is just one of the many changes in pregnancy, like developing a bump, so try to relax and take it in your stride.

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