Why Do I Have Acne During Pregnancy?

Pregnant belly
Photo (c) Microsoft

Congratulations on the impending birth of your little one! Pregnancy is an amazing time that brings about amazing changes.  Some of them fun, like your cute new baby bump. Some of them, though, are not so fun.  Like pimples.  Lots of them.

Why are you breaking out now that you're pregnant?

Pregnancy Acne Is Common, Thanks to Hormones

As you've discovered, pregnancy doesn't always make your skin glow.

Acne during pregnancy isn't as uncommon as you might think.

Colossal changes are taking place within your body. And sometimes these changes show on the skin. About half of all women get acne during pregnancy.

Blame hormones for your acne breakouts. During pregnancy, hormones can fluctuate wildly. It's androgen hormones, specifically progesterone, that contribute to acne development.

Progesterone is the queen bee of pregnancy hormones. Progesterone helps your uterus prepare for supporting a growing baby.

High levels of this hormone also stimulate your skin's oil glands, making them produce more oil. This is why your skin may be feeling like an oil slick right now. All that extra oil also clogs your pores and creates more breakouts.

Acne Can Come and Go During Your Entire Pregnancy

Although acne can appear at any time during pregnancy, it's most likely to develop during your first trimester, as pregnancy hormones start ramping up.

And those blemishes will probably be inflammatory pimples, rather than blackheads.

This doesn't mean every pregnant woman will battle breakouts. Some pregnant moms find their existing acne clears up. Others will notice no discernible change in the skin, good or bad.

If you've had acne at any time before, though, you're more likely to break out during pregnancy.

This is especially true if you tend to break out around your monthly cycle.

Acne that appears during the first trimester often fades during the second.  Don't be surprised, though, if pimples come back with a vengeance in the third trimester as hormone levels surge.

Another thing you may notice: pimples in places you've never had before. Pregnancy commonly causes body breakouts too.

Incidentally, other skin changes can occur during pregnancy such as melasma, and the dreaded stretch marks.

Most Likely Acne will Fade On Its Own After You Give Birth

The good news is that acne that appears during pregnancy typically goes away on its own after the baby is born. Because of this, most doctors will suggest waiting it out.

Sometimes, though, acne can persist even after the baby is born.

If Needed, Acne can be Treated During Pregnancy

Sometimes just can't wait until after the baby is born to do something about your acne. Maybe acne is very severe, or it's leaving scars.

Acne can be treated while you're pregnant, but care must be taken when choosing treatments.

Certain acne medications (like isotretinoin) should never be used by pregnant or nursing moms.

Even certain topical medications should be avoided during pregnancy. Make sure you ask your doctor before using any acne treatment product, including over-the-counter acne products.

The best thing to do is ask your obstetrician and/or your dermatologist to help you devise an acne treatment plan that is both effective for you and safe for your baby.

Next Steps:

Safely Treating Acne During Pregnancy

Treating Postpartum Acne

The New Mom Skin Care Routine

Sources:

Baldwin HE. "Treating acne during pregnancy and lactation." Cutis. 96.1 (2016): 11-12.

Chien AL, Qi J, Rainer B, Sachs DL, Helfrich YR. "Treatment of acne in pregnancy." Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 29.2 (2016): 254-262.

Kong YL, Tey HL. "Treatment of acne vulgaris during pregnancy and lactation." Drugs. 73.8 (2013): 779-787.

Yang CS, Teeple M, Muglia J, Robinson-Bostom L. "Inflammatory and glandular skin disease in pregnancy." Clinics in Dermatology. 34.3 (2016): 335-343.

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