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The Third Trimester of Pregnancy: Skin Changes

Overview

Skin conditions and rashes may occur at any time throughout your pregnancy. The main skin changes that could appear toward the end of pregnancy include:

  • varicose veins
  • spider nevi
  • skin eruptions
  • stretch marks

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that look like twisted cords, and can be red, blue, or the color of your skin. They most often develop on the legs, but they can also develop on the vulva, which is known as vulvar varicosities.

Varicose veins are more common in women than in men, and show up more frequently during pregnancy than at other times. They can occur throughout a pregnancy, but they may worsen during the third trimester. At this stage hormones cause veins to dilate so they can carry more blood.

Also, as the uterus continues to expand, it puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, the vein that carries blood from the legs and feet to the heart.

Although varicose veins are not considered a medical issue, they may be painful. A few ways to minimize varicose veins include:

  • not sitting with crossed legs or standing for extended periods of time
  • keeping your legs elevated whenever possible and wearing compression stockings
  • exercising to maintain a healthy circulation.

Varicose veins will likely get better after you deliver your baby, but if they don't there are several different treatment options you can discuss with your doctor.

Spider Nevi

Spider nevi are similar to varicose veins in that they are caused by dilated blood vessels. However, spider nevi occur in the small blood vessels that are located just under the surface of your skin.

Spider nevi will appear as raised red lines that branch out from a central point. They are rarely painful, but some people may not like the way they look. Most of the time they will disappear after delivery.

Skin Eruptions

Sometimes called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), the characteristic lesions are red, raised, and itchy. The rash tends to be located in stretch marks, though it can also make an appearance on thighs, buttocks, or arms. Its cause is unknown, but it isn’t dangerous to you or your baby.

For most women, PUPPP disappears after delivery, and usually only occurs during a first pregnancy. If you’re experiencing this rash and it’s bothering you, taking a bath with oatmeal or baking soda may provide some relief. Also, talking with your doctor could be helpful. They may prescribe you antihistamines.

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are very common in pregnancy. Typically, they are red or white marks on your skin, and are most often found on the breasts, belly, and upper thighs.

Your skin has fibers that allow your skin to stretch and grow. However, growth that happens too quickly can break these fibers.

Stretch marks usually are purple or red when they first appear because the blood vessels in the dermis are showing. They usually fade after delivery, but it may be difficult to eliminate them completely.

Outlook

Most of the skin changes that happen during pregnancy will go away after you’ve delivered your baby. Talk to your doctor if any of your skin changes are making you uncomfortable, or if you have any concerns. They can prescribe you treatments and confirm that the changes are not a symptom of a more serious condition.

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