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Pregnancy and what it means for your hair, skin and nails
The hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy affect more than just your taste buds - they also affect your hair, skin and nails. This blog contains information to learn which changes you can expect during pregnancy.
Things will be different the instant you notice you missed your menstrual cycle. Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be scary and sometimes confusing.
Not only will you notice that you're preparing to breathe new life into the world, but you'll also experience some unexpected bodily changes. During the first few weeks, your abdomen begins to grow and other parts of your body may swell with it.
Your hormones are anything but balanced and you'll notice that certain foods and smells will make you very hungry or make you run to the bathroom.
Changes in hair growth during pregnancy
Your hair grows in a predictable cycle, but pregnancy hormones can interrupt that cycle and cause unexpected changes.
Healthy hair grows at a rate of about 1 to 1.5 cm per month. Healthy hair grows for a period of three to five years before entering a resting phase that lasts two to three months. After the resting phase the hair falls out and the whole cycle repeats itself. During pregnancy, your hair can stay in the growth cycle longer than normal because of an increase in estrogen hormone, which causes more hair to grow at the same time, and therefore you have more (thicker) hair.
Unfortunately, some women experience the opposite during pregnancy - an elevated estrogen level causes hair to move prematurely from the growth phase to the resting phase. During this time you may experience decreased growth and more hair loss.
After childbirth, estrogen levels return to normal and hair loss can occur during the resting phase. This results in a condition called telogen effluvium and this usually happens after one to five months postpartum. Most women find that this increase in hair loss is temporary and that the hair's normal growth pattern is resumed by the time the baby is 12 months old.
Here are some simple tips to keep your hair healthy during pregnancy:
- Don't wear your hair in tight styles such as a tight tail or braids to avoid overloading the hair with unnecessary tension, increasing hair loss.
- Use shampoos and conditioners that contain nutrients that support hair growth, such as biotin, silica, and vitamin E.
- Eat healthily whenever you can - lots of fruits and vegetables because they contain flavonoids and antioxidants that protect hair follicles.
- Be careful with your hair when it's wet, as it can be particularly fragile. Use a coarse comb when brushing wet hair and use the cool setting on your hairdryer.
- Massage warm coconut or sesame oil into your scalp two to three times a week to stimulate growth and reduce hair loss.
- Take OASE Hair Vitamins to ensure you get all the nutrients the hair follicle needs to produce thick, strong, healthy hair.
Besides following the above tips, you may also want to avoid dyeing your hair during pregnancy. There is no conclusive evidence that hair dyeing is dangerous for babies and it is unlikely that your hair will absorb enough chemicals to affect you (other than your hair) or your baby. You may not want to use chemical hair products during pregnancy or at least not during the first 3 months.
Skin changes to be expected during pregnancy
Pregnant women would often have a (pregnancy) glow about them, but where does it come from?
When you become pregnant, your blood volume increases to provide extra blood supply to the uterus and fetus. Increased blood flow brings more blood to the blood vessels in your skin and increases secretions in the oil glands. This, in combination with a slight accumulation of fluid, causes stretching of the skin and hot flushes, which creates pregnancy glow.
Although many women experience improvements in their skin during pregnancy, some women are not so lucky. Some women find that their skin becomes drier and more prone to pimples. Many women even notice that their skin generally darkens, possibly due to an increase in estrogen and melanocyte (certain type of skin cell) stimulating hormone levels.
Some other skin changes you may experience during pregnancy include:
- Striae - These appear as pink or purple lines that develop on the abdomen, breasts, hips, and legs. The exact cause of stretch marks is unknown but has something to do with pregnancy hormones and skin stretching. Some studies have shown that skin creams containing vitamin E, menthol and collagen can help reduce stretch marks development.
- Chloasma - Between 50 and 70 percent of pregnant women experience increased pigmentation on the cheeks, nose, and chin in the form of brown or yellow spots. To reduce the risk of chloasma, avoid skincare products that rely on sunlight, and use sunscreen of at least SPF 50.
- Hyperpigmentation - Small or large dark spots on the skin. While some women develop chloasma on the face, others experience hyperpigmentation on the nipples, external genitals, and anal region caused by an increase in melanocytes associated with pregnancy hormones.
- Acne - During pregnancy, the sebaceous glands in the skin produce more oil, increasing the risk of acne. Use skincare products with glycolic acid or alpha-hydroxy acid.
- Heat Rash - Small, red bumps or blisters filled with fluid. Changes in hormone balance and an increase in body weight can lead to an increase in body temperature. Many women experience hot flashes or heat rashes during pregnancy.
Because your skin will change during pregnancy, you may need to change your skincare routine.
Start each day with a cleanser to remove excess oils. Then apply a daily moisturizer with a sunscreen of at least SPF 15. If you suffer from acne, try products containing glycolic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid, or witch hazel to soothe the skin.
Important note: retinoids are a common ingredient in anti-aging skin care products because they stimulate collagen production and accelerate cell renewal. However, dermatologists do not recommend retinoids for pregnant women, as they may harm the unborn child. This is confirmed by a 2018 report submitted by the European Medicines Agency.
How does pregnancy affect your nails?
If you suffer from brittle nails, perhaps a pleasant surprise awaits you. Pregnancy hormones cause many women to develop stronger, faster growing nails. Unfortunately, some women experience the opposite - brittle nails that are prone to splitting and breaking.
The sudden influx of pregnancy hormones often causes accelerated nail growth, but for some women that growth is accompanied by grooves, brittleness and onycholysis (nail shedding): separation of nails from nail bed. Fortunately, these changes are usually temporary and your nails return to normal after giving birth. But what can you do in the meantime?
Here are some simple tips for healthy nails during pregnancy:
- Eat healthily to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to grow strong nails.
- Continue to take vitamins during pregnancy, and make sure these nails contain supporting nutrients such as biotin.
- Add natural sources of biotin to your diet, such as eggs, nuts, mushrooms, peas, avocado, milk, bananas, and whole grains.
- Avoid using solvent-based nail products (such as nail polish removers) because they can dry out your nails even more.
- Keep your nails short, so they are less likely to get stuck or break.
- Wear rubber gloves when washing or cleaning at home to protect your skin and nails from aggressive chemicals. Push back your cuticles when painting or polishing your nails instead of cutting them.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time when you feel you have no control over your own body. Taking a day to pamper yourself in a spa/ nail salon is a great way to relax and unwind. Avoid poorly ventilated nail studios and make sure the salon follows standard disinfection methods to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
Other surprising changes you can expect
If you are well prepared for changes in your hair, skin, and nails during pregnancy, these changes can be addressed a little more easily. But keep in mind that 40 weeks is a long time and you will undoubtedly experience other changes.
Here are some other surprising changes you can expect during pregnancy:
- You develop nestling behavior. As childbirth approaches, you will notice that you clean the house from top to bottom, paying attention to details you have never noticed before.
- You may notice changes in your memory and concentration. During the first three months, fatigue and morning sickness can really exhaust you. But even if you are well-rested, you may still have difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness. A term known to some researchers as 'Baby Brain'.
- You experience symptoms similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). During pregnancy, you are more likely to experience symptoms such as sensitive breasts, headaches, and mood swings.
- You may have to buy new bras. Increased breast size is one of the first physical signs of pregnancy and it's likely that your bra size will change several times during pregnancy due to higher estrogen and progesterone levels, as well as increased lung capacity.
- You'll notice that your joints are a little looser. As your body prepares for childbirth, the pregnancy hormone relaxin produces the loosening of the ligaments in your body. As a result, your joints are a little less stable, which increases the risk of injuries.
- You may develop varicose veins. Your veins can be enlarged by pregnancy hormones through which varicose veins can form. Varicose veins usually disappear after birth. You can prevent them by wearing loose-fitting clothes, wearing support stockings, and avoiding standing or sitting for a long time.
- You will experience heartburn as never before. During pregnancy, the muscles that break down food become more relaxed and the food stays in your stomach longer so that you can absorb all the nutrients. This can make the existing heartburn worse or cause it to develop.
Becoming pregnant causes a whirlwind of change. While some of these changes can be unpleasant or downright uncomfortable, it's all worth it for the privilege of revitalizing the world.
Parenthood is a noble calling and it comes with growing pains, but you don't have to sit back and watch your body change without your consent. With what you have learned here, you can prepare yourself for the inevitable changes in your hair, skin, and nails so that you can look and feel good during your pregnancy.