Skin Problems During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is beautiful, but it does take its toll on the body. Read on about skin problems during pregnancy, from stretch marks to rubella as well as skin disorders in pregnancy.

You have heard about pregnant women and the “glow of pregnancy”, but not everything is rosy when it comes to skin changes during pregnancy.

Here are some skin problems that you may develop when expecting.

Skin Changes During Pregnancy

Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, the skin around your nipple and genitals may darken and, oftentimes, a dark line may develop in the middle of the abdomen (Fig 1). Purplish and pink streaks may also appear across your abdomen as it enlarges — these are stretch marks (Fig 1) brought on by the expansion of your skin as your baby grows. Some women may develop pigmentation on the face (Fig 2) as well.

These are all physiological skin changes that are often harmless and to be expected during pregnancy. 

Figure 1

Figure 2

​Skin Diseases During Pregnancy

Aside from physiological changes, you may also be at risk of the following skin diseases during pregnancy.


Rubella (Fig 3), or German measles, is a contagious viral infection characterised by a distinctive red rash. It is spread through direct contact with the nasal secretions or saliva of infected individuals and can be contracted through an infected person’s cough or sneeze. 

A non-itchy rash usually appears over various parts of your body and will last for two to three days. If the infection occurs during the first four months of pregnancy, your baby may be at risk of developing birth defects or death in the womb. 

Females should be vaccinated against rubella in their childhood years, and not during a pregnancy.


Syphilis (Fig 4) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that usually results in painless ulcers erupting on one’s genitals in the early stages of the infection. The STD should heal spontaneously within three weeks even without treatment. 

Some symptoms associated with syphilis include rashes on your skin, palms, soles and mouth about six to eight weeks after you have been infected. If the infection occurs during pregnancy, the baby may be born with heart, bone and brain defects. 

All women are routinely tested for syphilis during their regular pregnancy check-ups in Singapore.

Genital Herpes

Most cases of genital herpes are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2. The infection is usually spread through direct sexual contact and is often a recurring disease. 

It presents as painful blisters and sores on the genitals and their surrounding area. At times, women with genital herpes may not exhibit any symptoms if the virus is present in the vagina. During delivery, the baby may contract the virus and affect the baby’s skin, brains and liver. 

The infection of a newborn can be prevented by ensuring that the mother's infection is under control during delivery. In some instances, a Caesarean section may be necessary.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Skin Diseases Specific to Pregnancy

The following skin diseases occur only in pregnancy and usually clear up after childbirth.

Polymorphous Eruption of Pregnancy

One in 300 pregnant women develop this skin disease, characterised by an itchy rash (Fig 5) that usually starts from stretch marks on the abdomen before spreading to the rest of the body. The skin disease is not harmful to the unborn child and should disappear six weeks after your delivery. 

The rash rarely starts after the delivery of the baby.

Herpes Gestationis 

This rare skin disorder (Fig 6) presents as tiny blisters that usually start from the navel. Except for occasional premature birth, the skin disease poses no serious risk to the baby in the womb and tends to recur in subsequent pregnancies.

Erythema Multiforme

Erythema multiforme (Fig 7) is a skin condition that is often associated with an overreaction to a medication or infection. This rash usually affects the body and arms, but is not itchy. Often times, the rash clears before childbirth and, if not, always after. 

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

Are Skin Problems During Pregnancy Permanent?

Most physiological skin changes such as pigmentation and stretch marks tend to fade, often not completely, over time. Pigmentation can be lightened with bleaching cream, but stretch marks rarely disappear and may just appear lighter. However, most skin diseases such as rubella, syphilis and genital herpes can cause permanent harm to the baby in the womb.

Precautions to Take If You Have Skin Problems During Pregnancy

Most skin diseases can be treated using the same methods adopted to treat non-pregnant women. Doctors will avoid drugs that are known to be unsafe to your unborn baby. As such, it is important to consult and inform your doctor if you have any of the above skin diseases and are pregnant. Avoid self-medicating and taking traditional medication as they may affect your unborn child.​

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides for a healthy pregnancy.

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