“Glow, schmow! If another person tells me I’m glowing, I think I just might slap them,” a client tells me during one of our prenatal visits. Stretch marks, weight gain and bloating, acne, spider veins, brown blotches on your face, and hair in places you thought hair couldn’t grow—pregnancy can really wreak havoc on your physical self-image.
When I look at photos of my own pregnancy I see the glow… now. Actually, I have yet to see a pregnant woman that isn’t radiating beauty. There is nothing more feminine and glorious than a woman who is expecting. But, as that woman, I didn’t feel that way at all. Before diving into the ins and outs of the beauty disaster pregnancy can cause, take a minute and really see yourself. You are beautiful, and the glow everyone is seeing doesn’t just come from your external beauty, but also from within. You’re creating life. You’re fertile and healthy and growing a child. There really is nothing more beautiful.
Those dreaded squiggly lines many mothers wear as badges of honor on their tummies, breasts, and thighs are stretch marks. Stretch marks are scars that form when your skin is forced to stretch with rapid growth. They may be influenced by hormonal changes such as elevated levels of relaxin, estrogen, and cortisol.
Most of us won’t escape pregnancy without at least a few stretch marks. Genetics are suspected to play a role, so if your mother was lucky, you might be too. Doctors suggest gaining weight slowly and steadily will help reduce the stress on your skin and may help prevent stretch marks. Creams and lotions said to fight stretch marks aren’t proven to work, but moisture is always a good thing and some of those “belly butters” smell divine! If you’re totally devastated by your stretch marks after pregnancy, laser treatment can help banish them.
Your ideal amount of weight to gain depends on your BMI. Gaining weight can be challenging, mentally and physically. The best way to eat for two (you and a baby, not you and your partner) is to add a few healthy snacks to your daily menu. Eat a healthy and balanced diet and continue to exercise regularly. Slow and steady weight gain may also prevent stretch marks, as mentioned above.
I assure you that beauty does not have a size. It’s not easy to see yourself growing, especially if you have struggled to maintain a healthy-for-you weight prior to pregnancy. Remember that much of your weight gain is additional blood and body fluids, increased breast tissue, placenta, uterine growth, and of course your baby. Talk to your care provider if you are having trouble gaining the right amount of weight for your body.
Gently easing yourself back into higher intensity exercise and continuing to eat a healthy, balanced diet after pregnancy will help you shed the extra weight postpartum. Don’t forget that your body may retain some fat store during breastfeeding as a means of protecting your baby by ensuring you can provide the nutrition they need.
Bloating can make you feel super unattractive. Add in a little gas and it can be down right devastating. Bye-bye Fertility Goddess vibes! Bloating, thankfully, ends after the first 12 weeks and can be reduced by avoiding foods such as:
- Brussels sprouts
- artificial sweeteners
No longer just for teenagers, acne can become a major problem for pregnant women. What makes the situation worse? Most anti-acne products and medications aren’t recommended for use during pregnancy. For especially bad cases, you can try pregnancy-approved alpha hydroxy acids.
The good news is that once your hormones settle down, the acne should too. Treat your skin gently and remember that it may be more sensitive during pregnancy.
Your blood volume increases significantly during pregnancy, and hormones can weaken the walls of your blood vessels. This may result in the unsightly spider-like veins known as varicose veins, and you’re at a higher risk if you spend long periods standing. So what helps? Support stockings or hose may help prevent them, and injections and laser treatment can reduce the visibility of spider veins after your baby is born.
Melasma is sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy.” It results in dark patches on the face, usually on the cheekbones and forehead. Prevent melasma by wearing sunscreen and a hat outdoors. If it’s too late, you can use bronzer to camouflage it during pregnancy and, in most cases, it will fade after your baby is born. If your pregnancy mask doesn’t fade to your liking after pregnancy, talk to your dermatologist about chemical peels, and other treatments.
Yeah, treasure trails aren’t just reserved for men. You may notice hairs in places you’ve never grown them before such as your tummy, breasts, face, and back. Thankfully, body hair tends to decrease after the second trimester, and you should go back to normal after your baby is born. Waxing, sugaring, shaving, and electrolysis are all safe options for hair removal during pregnancy.
Pregnancy isn’t all bad when it comes to beauty! Some people never experience any of the above side effects, and you may not either. Some even find that during pregnancy, their skin looks better than ever, their hair grows in thick and silky, and their nails become strong and healthy.
If you are feeling like your baby is sucking the beauty out of you, give yourself some grace. Know that you’re beautiful while pregnant regardless of weight gain, acne, veins, or hair. Remember why you’re doing it all, and be reassured that what doesn’t go back to the way it was before pregnancy can be resolved or reduced through exercise, healthy eating and/or treatment. You’re actually glowing a lot brighter than you know—stay beautiful!