Gridlock. Spam. Irritating coworkers. Certain problems are beyond our control—stretch marks included. And while a new U.K. study found that 90 percent of pregnant women face these skin problems, there are still steps one can take to reduce their appearance. Anne Chapas, M.D., of NYC's Union Square Laser Dermatology, offers her best tips.
Pregnancy brings with it many things, some joyous and some…not. For about 1 in 160 expectant moms (less than 1 percent), one of the unfortunate side effects can be a rash with a mean itch known as PUPPPs, or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy.
For some women, swollen and very tender breasts are the first clues they’re pregnant: Right from the start, they’re preparing for their job of producing milk. Here, Heather Weldon, M.D., an OB-GYN in Vancouver, Wash., answers some of the most common questions about your mammaries during pregnancy.
Q: How and when will my breasts change?
1. Massage your belly
Neal’s YardRemedies Mothers Balm, $45.
Fragrance-free and organic, it’s a good pick for sensitive baby bumps.
2. Spritz on a good mood
Earth Mama, Angel Baby Happy Mama Spray, $15.
Essential oils offer a quick pick-me-up.
3. Quench dry spots
Honeydew Balmy Mommy, $24.
This balm’s 10 all-natural moisturizers ease itching.
1. Bum troubles?
Earth Mama Bottom Balm, $15, soothes and helps heal prenatal and postpartum irritations.
2. Tired tootsies?
Erbaorganics Mommy-to-be Foot & Leg Refresher, $15, contains peppermint and aloe to reduce swelling.
3. Dry skin?
Mambino Organics Youth Glow Omega Face Complex, $26, has a blend of oils to keep skin dewy.
4. Itchy belly?
Mama Mio Tummy Rub Butter, $35, soothes dry, tight skin with shea butter and natural oils.
Get the right rub
“Pregnancy massage should be gentle, and you should always ask for a licensed massage therapist with prenatal experience,” says Marie Scalogna, L.M.T., president of Mama Spa in New York, which provides in-home spa treatments. Before you book this or any treatment, get your doctor’s OK—particularly during your first trimester. More guidelines from Scalogna:
>>Soothing soaks If you have hemorrhoids or episiotomy pain (or—you poor thing—both), take an aromatherapeutic sitz bath in warm water. “Hot water will increase swelling,” says Bruce Tisch, M.D., an OB-GYN in Englewood, N.J.
First, do not get a tattoo while you're pregnant (on your belly or anywhere else). "There's a risk of infection or an allergic reaction to the ink," says Kenneth Beer, M.D., a clinical instructor in dermatology at the University of Miami. If you already have a tattoo, don't think about getting it removed until after your pregnancy--undergoing laser removal when you are pregnant is unsafe.
Thick and creamy Mustela 9 Month Maternity Stretch Marks Double Action ($37) lotion absorbs easily into your skin.
Infused with rosemary, lavender and geranium oils, ErbaOrganics Mommy-to-Be Massage Oil ($12) can be used on itchy bellies and aching limbs.
Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Tummy Butter ($7) contains cocoa butter and vitamin E, along with the soothing scent of lavender oil.
So you have a big zit instead of that "glow" everyone talks about? Join the crowd. "Almost all women experience some type of skin problem during pregnancy," says Diane Berson, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell University Medical College in New York City. Common issues include acne, stretch marks and melasma (aka chloasma, or "mask of pregnancy").
Despite how foreign they can look on your body, stretch marks (or striae) are a normal part of pregnancy: Half of all moms-to-be can expect to find these rippled stripes on their skin.
What's the cause?
"Stretch marks are an odd entity," says dermatologist Alan Rosenbach, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "Considering how common they are, we don't know much about their cause, though some suspect the reasons are at least partly hormonal."