It’s amazing how pregnancy affects many parts of your body. Hormones change dramatically once an egg is fertilised. The usual fall in oestrogen and progesterone at the end of the menstrual cycle does not occur and as a consequence there is no period. A new hormone, HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), produced by the developing placenta, stimulates the ovaries to produce the higher levels of oestrogen and progesterone that are needed to uphold a pregnancy. Most pregnancy testing kits are designed to detect HCG in a woman’s urine, and many can pick up the slightest amount just a day or so after her first missed period.
As the fourth month of pregnancy arrives, the placenta takes over from the ovaries as the main producer of oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones cause the lining of the womb to thicken, increase the volume of blood circulating (in particular the supply to the womb and breasts), and relax the muscles of the womb to make room for the growing baby. Around the time of childbirth, other hormones come into play that help the womb to contract during and after labour, as well as stimulate the production and release of breast milk.
Common Skin Changes During Pregnancy
The ‘pregnancy glow’: The increased volume of blood throughout the body causes the cheeks to take on an attractive blush. This is due to the many blood vessels just below the skin’s surface. Increased secretions of the oil glands also give the skin a glowing sheen.
The pregnancy mask: Brownish or yellowish patches called chloasma (also known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’) can appear anywhere on the face, but in particular will be seen on the forehead, upper cheeks, nose and chin. Chloasma cannot be prevented but the intensity of these blotchy, darkened areas can be reduced by limiting your exposure to the sun, which stimulates melanin production.
Acne: While acne during pregnancy is rarely as severe as that of adolescence, it may be best to take extra care and follow the teenage skincare rituals. Thankfully, pregnancy is a heck of a lot shorter than puberty and most pimples and skin imperfections subside shortly after delivery. It is important to remember to avoid abrasive harsh cleansers, scrubs or exfoliants; pregnant skin is usually way more sensitive. Milder, oatmeal-based facial scrubs can help unplug the oily pores, and are much kinder to sensitive skin. Anti-acne prescription drugs such as Accutane and Retin-A should never be used during pregnancy.
Some skin areas become darker: Moles, freckles, brown spots or birthmarks can become browner during pregnancy. New moles may also appear. (Consult your doctor or health care professional if these moles seem particularly raised, dark, or have irregular borders.) The areola and nipples of your breasts will become quite a lot darker and although other areas of your skin will return to their original colour after pregnancy, your areola will probably always be somewhat darker than they were before you were pregnant.
Linea nigra: A lot of women normally have a faint linea alba (a white line) running from their belly button to the centre of their pubic bone. It is barely visible before pregnancy. (You may not have even noticed it was there!) Sometime in the second trimester a linea alba becomes a linea nigra (a dark line) that is much more obvious. The line can extend upward from the navel for some. The linea nigra is darker in darker-skinned women and disappears several months after delivery
Spider veins: The increase in blood volume, along with pregnancy hormones can cause minute, web-like red or purple capillaries just below the surface of the skin to branch out and become more visible during pregnancy. These ‘nevi’ can take longer to disappear than many of the other skin problems of pregnancy and some may not go away without help from a dermatologist.
Skin tags: Tiny polyps, called skin tags, can occur in areas where skin rubs on clothing or skin rubs together. Commonly found under the arms, between skin folds, or under bra lines on the chest, skin tags are caused by hyperactive growth of a superficial layer of skin. They usually subside a few months after birth, but can be easily removed if they bother you.
Heat rash: A woman’s body can be overheated when pregnant and, when combined with excessive perspiration, dampness and skin or clothing friction, prickly heat rash can appear pimply and feel irritating. It is most common in the crease between and under the breasts, in the crease where the bulge of the lower abdomen rubs against the top of the pubic area, under the arms and on the inner thighs.
Itching: Some areas of your skin may itch because they are dry and flaky, others may itch because of a prickly rash, as mentioned above. Many women find the most irritating itching is in the skin that stretches, mainly over the abdomen, but also on hips and thighs. Even as early as the second month of pregnancy, the insides of your hands and the bottoms of your feet may itch and take on a reddish hue. This is called palmar erythema.
Pimply eruptions: Only a very small percentage of pregnant women experience itchy, red, raised patches on their abdomen, thighs, buttocks, hands and feet. This condition is called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (also known as PUPP). It tends to come and go during the second half of pregnancy and nearly always disappears shortly after delivery. Treat this the same as any other itchy skin break-out.
Stretch marks: As your belly and breasts increase in size your skin has to stretch to accommodate such change. Stretch marks are caused by the speed at which the skin has to stretch so excessively over a relatively short amount of time. They can begin as small reddish lines and are found particularly on the abdomen, hips, buttocks and breast areas. You are either prone to them or not, and spending hundreds of dollars on wonder products may be a complete waste of time for some.
Hair changes: Pregnancy can do weird things to your hair! If you had natural curly hair before, it can become straighter during pregnancy and for some it may stay that way. Some women notice their hair becomes thicker, or it falls out, or it grows in places not seen before – like on the belly! Most women find their hair returns to normal a couple of months after delivery.
After childbirth levels of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones fall sharply, causing a number of physical changes. The womb shrinks back to its non-pregnant size, pelvic floor muscle tone improves, skin and hair problems reduce or disappear and the volume of blood circulating round the body returns to normal. This dramatic change in hormone levels is thought to play a part in causing postnatal depression, although there have been no significant differences detected in the hormone changes of women who do, and do not, get postnatal depression. It is thought that some women are more easily affected by these hormonal fluctuations than others.
Top 10 Skin & Beauty Tips During Pregnancy
1. Protect your skin: – Skin pigmentation can change during pregnancy and your skin may tan or burn more easily. Choose products that have an SPF with natural healthy ingredients that form a physical (not chemical) block like zinc oxide. Pay special attention to the face and hands.
2. Avoid harsh soaps: – Soaps can strip the skin of natural oils and cause irritation. Use a natural moisturizing body wash and maintain that healthy glow.
3. Look after your face: – Even though some women may find their skin is more oily or more dry during pregnancy it is essential to use high quality, natural skincare products to help balance this out. A natural Face Serum is ideal and often the best product to use on the face during pregnancy.
4. Feed your skin: – You skin cell turnover increases at this time. Make sure you nourish and moisturize more often to help skin maintain a healthy sheen. The Balance or Nourish Moisturisers both work beautifully on pregnant skin.
5. Nurture your bump: – Skin is under enormous pressure as your baby grows – especially in the belly region. Use a natural body oil blend or moisturizing gel to help skin stay supple and perhaps lessen the chance of stretch marks. The Massage Carrier Oil is ideal and you can add oils like Lavender, Frankincense and Geranium to boost the nourishing and hydrating qualities.
6. Drink plenty of water: – Keep your body hydrated all day every day. If you feel thirsty you have become dehydrated and left it too late. Water will help maintain softer and more nourished skin.
7. Look after your feet: – As your weight increases there is more pressure placed on them. Your feet may become achy, swollen and itchy. A lavender and peppermint foot-bath or a menthol gel can do wonders at the end of each day. Use a few pumps of Magnesium Health Spray with a drop each of Lavender and Peppermint – or Instant Calm and rub into the soles of the feet before bed to help reduce inflammation and enhance and more restful sleep.
8. Give your face a mask: – Treat your skin to a fortnightly or monthly to a gentle Clay Mask. Take a moment to rest and put your feet up. Enjoy the time out if you can, your skin will be more refreshed and smooth and this can do wonders to how you feel.
9. Don’t spend too long in a bath: – Not only can a hot bath cause fatigue, it is not good to raise your body temperature too high. Long baths can also dehydrate the skin so use a moisturizing wash or a couple of drops of your favourite essential oils are ideal for in the bath. Always do your Daily Body Boost afterwards and whilst the skin is moist apply all over the body honouring how amazing it is all the way!
10. Feed your face: – Pregnancy can cause all sorts of cravings and changes in your eating habits. Just like your friendly nutritionist, we encourage you to eat plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, good quality proteins and fats and avoid processed convenience foods. You will need all the nutrients you can get to avoid fatigue, lethargy, skin conditions and irritability.
Top 10 Essential Oils For Perfect Skin During Pregnancy
Chamomile: Soothes dermal inflammation, relieves allergies, excellent for eczema, dermatitis and burns. The most anti-inflammatory of all the oils. Gently sedating, calming and soothing.
Frankincense: Regenerating and rejuvenating on prematurely aged or mature skin, it is healing and repairing. Comforting and fortifying, deeply relaxing with a drying up effect.
Geranium: Geranium normalises skin imbalances and promotes healing to skin disruptions. It’s great for dry eczema and dermatitis, and helps balance sebum production. A great regulating oil, it brings balance to hormonal change and helps balance mood swings.
Lavender: Lavender is the most nurturing and soothing oil. It is gently sedating, relaxing and calming. An excellent firstaid remedy, it is great for bites and stings, relieves itchiness and irritation, and helps activate the immune system. It heals scalds, burns and scars, is soothing and healing to dermatitis, and acts as a cell regenerator.
Neroli: Neroli is calming, antiseptic and regenerating, it is excellent for dry and mature skins. It helps in treating stress-related disorders and is excellent in helping to minimise stretch marks.
Orange: Orange is cleansing to oily skin, excellent for softening smoker’s skin and hardened skin affected by sun damage. It helps relieve mild headaches and mild insomnia. It is helpful for nervous conditions and is refreshing and uplifting.
Rose: Rose oil is excellent for dry and mature skin as it rehydrates and rejuvenates and promotes health and vitality in the skin. The great healer of the heart, it is balancing, nurturing and comforting and brings with it physical and emotional stability.
Rosewood: Soothing and healing, rosewood promotes elasticity deep in the skin and is good for all skin types, especially tired skins in need of a boost. It is also excellent for scars, wounds and wrinkles.
Sandalwood : Sandalwood is soothing to dry and cracked skin and promotes elasticity. It helps strengthen the adrenals and soothes a sore throat. It is also a very strengthening and calming oil.
Tea Tree: Tea Tree is a highly antibacterial oil, excellent for body and skin infections, acne and sensitive skin. It is both healing and soothing and helps stabilize skin conditions. It is one of the most anti-fungal oils.
Essential oils can have any of the following qualities:
Sedative: – induces sedation, calms nervousness, helps relax.
Stimulant: – produces temporary increase in functional activity, provides stimulus, quickening or excitement.
Anaesthetic: – reduces sensitivity to pain and has numbing effect.
Antiseptic: – reduces and prevents infection and inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Cytophylactic: – enhances cell renewal and regeneration.
Diuretic: – causes increased flow of urine.
Expectorant: – encourages secretion of mucus in the airways.
All skincare preparations should encourage harmony and balance in order to address the primary needs of the skin and to support its natural functions. The skin reflects our expression of ourselves. How we look after the skin, what we subject it to, what we feed it, how we treat it and what we feel and think will all be reflected in the skin’s appearance and function, even more so when pregnant.
If you want to use the many facets of aromatherapy for a good healthy pregnancy and on your skin, it is imperative that you use high quality pure essential oils and cold pressed base oils. These are more likely to give the therapeutic response you are seeking.
Cytophylactic or Cell Stimulating Oils
Oils for skin stress
- Clary Sage
Stress and relaxation are almost complete opposites. The exhilaration of a challenge or the excitement of an adventure are positive stresses which gives us the ‘high’ of living, but when these become heavy demands, stress can work against us instead of for us. Pregnancy can have the same effects and your face is one of the first places you – and your friends – will see the tell-tale signs of demanding stress in your life or a stressful pregnancy.
Essential oils can be a fantastic tool in helping to maintain a more healthy, stress-free pregnancy, enabling you to work with your intrinsic natural rhythms and hormones, enabling you to constantly restore the energy you give out and what is required to grow a new life. If nothing else using essential oils for relaxation and calm during this very special time is one of the nicest and most pleasant ways you can take special care of yourself. Enjoy!
Quick Reference Blending Guide
Tip: Measure accurately, label all blends, store the oils correctly using glass bottles (preferably amber or cobalt) – and be aware of all cautions. The key is to make sure you are delighted with your blend and want to use it.