Most women readily anticipate the much touted pregnancy glow and expanding belly. But few realise some unwanted changes during pregnancy are coming their way too. Here we explore how to ride through some of the less known peculiarities.
The most common (and wonderful) change during pregnancy is shiny, voluminous hair. By week 15 or so, you begin to notice your locks look healthier, grow faster and seem thicker than before. Credit goes estrogen, the same pregnancy hormone responsible for morning sickness.
The surge of estrogen in a pregnant woman’s body prolongs the growth phase of our tresses, resulting in less shedding and contributing to voluminous hair. Some pregnant women also report a change in hair texture – from straight to curly and vice versa.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Unfortunately, this increase in hair growth isn’t limited to our mane. Excess body hair is a common unwanted change during pregnancy. Smooth ears begin to sprout hair; arms and legs can get a little furry. The prospect of wearing a swimsuit in public becomes horrifying. In such instances, by all means, tweeze, wax and shave – these are safe hair removal methods. Do refrain from IPL, electrolysis and other laser hair removal methods till after birth.
Your mane attraction returns to normal three months post partum. Then the opposite occurs. Your hair is likely to start dropping. You may end up with bald patches and your cutie patootie of a baby grabbing fistfuls of your hair definitely won’t help. For these, my gynaecologist and hair stylist have advised a diligent consumption of biotin pills and the application of hair tonic. This will help hair grow back faster, though you may have to bear with regrowth for a year or so.
My skin can do that?
A strange dark line running down the belly. Skin tags. Dry skin. Oily skin. Bad skin. Good skin. Darker armpits, neck and groin. Freckles. Moles. All this and more are normal body changes during pregnancy to affect our skin. Once again, you can thank estrogen. There’s nothing much you can do to prevent these changes from happening but here are some ways to manage them:
- Chemical exfoliates such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA) are more effective than physical scrubs in reducing pigmentation. If you’re wary of the safe levels of acid contained in a product during pregnancy, stick to glycolic acid (an AHA derived from sugar cane) or lactic acid (from lactose found in milk).
- Listen to Baz Luhrmann – wear sunscreen. Your body’s pigment-producing cells are in overdrive during pregnancy, so being outdoors (or even near a window) without sunscreen could be a recipe for dermis disaster. Use something with a minimum protection rate of SPF 30 and make sure it hasn’t got oxybenzone – which has been linked to low birth weight.
- Drink plenty of water to keep skin hydrated and maintain a balanced diet. We’re all grown women. Drink up and eat up your fruits and veggies!
Most, but not all of these skin changes will go away after giving birth. If they persist and bother you, consult a dermatologist. Not all aesthetic procedures are safe for breastfeeding mothers or women who’ve recently had Caesarean surgery.
You’re so vein
During pregnancy the increase of blood coursing through your veins creates additional pressure on blood vessels. This causes the veins to swell, hence the appearance of those purplish spiderweb-like patterns on your legs and for some, the face.
Spider veins are treatable but you would have to wait till baby is born. In the meantime, here are some tips on how to reduce the appearance of spider veins:
- Try not to cross your legs when seated as this restricts blood flow, instead, prop your feet up on a stool
- Don’t sit or stand for long stretches, Try to break it up by going for a walk or changing positions
- Compression socks, they rock. They may not be the sexiest item of clothing but they do encourage circulation.
- Avoid high heels. Yes, first compression socks, and now flats. Fret not, it’s only for a few months.
- Reduce sodium intake as a salty diet can increase water retention and the swelling of veins.
The Belly Itch
Pregnant women are often seen stroking their stomachs but not always out of sheer affection for their unborn baby. As the belly blossoms, the skin on the belly stretches and tightens, causing it to itch. Hormonal changes and dry skin also play a part. Remember to never scratch, as this can irritate skin further and cause the appearance of stretch marks. Here are some measures to alleviate the itchiness:
- Moisturise. Apply stretch mark oil/cream to your abdomen twice a day. If you have pregnant nose (superhuman sense of smell), you may want to use something fragrance free. Tip: keep the product in the fridge for a cooling relief.
- Take lukewarm showers. Hot water can further dehydrate skin.
- If it is unbearable, inform your doctor. She may prescribe a topical cream which you can apply before moisturising.
In for a sweat
Even with the air conditioning set to Arctic temperatures, a pregnant women is likely to complain of being hot and sweaty. This is especially common when nearing the third trimester. Your body is trying to cool off the extra heat generated by the increase in hormones, blood flow and metabolism. This excessive perspiring snowballs after pregnancy, as your body gets rid of the excess fluid and hormones. Gingery foods consumed during confinement also make you sweat buckets. Aside from hanging out in a walk-in fridge, you can manage it by:
- Using a paraben free, antiperspirant deodorant;
- Wear loose, light clothing but try to stay away from grey clothing – it is notorious for showing sweat stains. Uniqlo AIRism tops help release heat and evaporate excess moisture. You could pair it with a light kimono jacket or an unbuttoned cotton shirt;
- Cornstarch powder – helps prevent underboob chafing.
In conclusion, pregnancy may feel like one big sweaty, hairy mess. You may feel like your body has betrayed you because it didn’t immediately snap back to what it was before (how in the world did Giselle Bundchen do it?!)
Lest we forget, it did take nine months to create another human life. Focus on your health and well being after giving birth. Once you’re stronger, you can begin exercising, resume laser hair removal therapy, have your eyebrows embroidered, even bleach your hair blonde. Whatever you need to pamper yourself after all the changes your body has been through!
By Chee Su Ning
Life before little humans involved hanging out with beautiful people and styling models for television commercials and photo shoots. Su Ning now has a gaggle of girls (3!) and she often masks her chagrin at her daughters’ fashion choices. She can often be found at the park with a trio of girls dressed in various shades of pink.