Fresh home from the hospital with your new bundle of joy and you’re focus is likely almost entirely on your new baby. Babies show up with their own list of skin-related concerns but there are a number of skin questions for mothers that can arise post-delivery and I’m here with all of the answers for you! In general, after delivery your body is healing. It is important to nourish yourself with nutritional food and plenty of water in the days and weeks after having a baby. Our bodies heal from the inside out and if you aren’t providing your body with the resources it needs, healing will be a much longer process.
C-section scars: If you have delivered your baby via C-section you will have to focus on making sure that your surgical incision heals completely. Your doctor will leave you with care instructions upon discharge from the hospital and it is very important to follow those instructions. Take care when in the shower to not scrub your wound but let soapy water rinse over the area. Most C-section incisions are mostly healed in about a week. If you develop a fever or find that the skin around the incision is red, hard, or painful or that it starts to ooze pus, it’s time to call the doctor as these are signs of an infection.
The scar – this is something that you can’t worry much about early on. There will be a scar but your genetics are what determines just how dark, wide, or big that scar is going to be. Once your incision has completely healed (about six weeks) you can begin to use scar-reducing ointments like bioCorneum plus SPF Advanced Scar Supervision (affiliate) which will help with the appearance of your scar. If you find that these ointments are not helping there are laser options that will help. These options should be discussed with your dermatologist. Sometimes, you can develop a hypertrophic (when the scar thickens and appears ropey) scar. If this happens, your dermatologist can help to smooth the scar out by injecting it with intralesional steroids.
Vaginal Tearing: If you delivered your baby vaginally and required an episiotomy or had any tearing, you have a few days of tenderness ahead of you. Minor tearing (1st degree) will heal without stitches in just a few days. Major tearing that requires stitches will take a bit longer. To help ease the pain, keep a squirt bottle (peri-bottle) and use warm water to pour warm water on your perineum while going to the bathroom. Cleanse the area with more warm water after and then pat yourself dry from front to back. Twenty-four hours after delivery you can soak in a warm tub or sitz bath for 20 minutes, three times a day.
Scarring can occur after your initial tear or cut has healed and can be painful, especially during intercourse. You should consult with your OB-GYN for options that can help to resolve this.
Cracked Nipples: If you have cracked nipples, you will want immediate relief so that you can continue with nursing your baby with as little pain as possible. Make sure that you check your babies latch and positioning to help prevent future cracks. There are many causes of sore, cracked nipples, including:
- Poor latch
- Thrush, which is a yeast infection on the skin of the nipple which can also be inside the baby’s mouth
- Bacterial infection on the nipple or in the milk ducts
- A nipple bleb (a tiny white blister on the end of the nipple)
- Raynaud’s syndrome occurs when the nipple turns white after feeding and hurts as blood flows back in
If your cracked nipples are due to a poor latch, a product with lanolin will be your best friend. Apply after you feed your baby and leave your breasts exposed as much as possible to let them dry out. Some ladies also find hydrocolloid dressings very helpful. I, for one, found these to be extremely helpful and often alternated between lanolin and these dressings. A moist nursing pad or bra presents warm air and moisture, which will not help with the healing process. If you have corrected your latch and are still experiencing pain and cracks in your nipples, consult with a doctor who can assess your breasts and provide treatment accordingly.
Mid section of pregnant woman touching abdomen over white background
You probably noticed these forming as your belly grew larger and larger during pregnancy. Stretch marks are caused by changes in the tissues that lie just beneath the skin and can range in color from pale pink to dark brown depending on your skin color. Once the pounds start to drop these marks may begin to fade but they never go away completely. Sadly, there is no cure for stretch marks but topical medications like Retin-A and glycolic acid may help to minimize the appearance of stretch marks. Laser treatments can also help to restore the skin’s elasticity and change that pigmentation of the marks (so they will match the rest of your skin).
The “mask of pregnancy”, melasma occurs when pigment collects in excess quantities and creates a patch of skin that is irregular from your regular skin tone. You should see this hyperpigmentation slowly fade post-delivery. However, for some women these patches of discoloration do not go away and help from a dermatologist is required.
If you have some discoloration on your skin during or after pregnancy, SPF is your best friend (honestly, this statement applies regardless of being pregnant, SPF should be applied every single day). UV exposure is one of the key contributors to melasma so protecting your skin from the sun is very important. There are a variety of products available over the counter that promise to lighten and brighten your skin. In truth, many of these are moisturizers and won’t have much benefit to you. You need the right ingredients to treat melasma:
- Hydroquinone is a powerful skin bleaching cream that produces quick results and will help to reduce the appearance of any hyperpigmentation related to pregnancy. Many people have luck with NeoStrata Targeted Treatment HQ Skin Lightening Gel
- Many people do not tolerate Hydroquinone well which can result in the spots darkening or becoming irritated.If you find this to be the case, stop using your Hydroquinone product immediately. An alternative cream that does not contain Hydroquinone is Lumixyl Brightening Cream.
- A dermatologist can also treat your skin with a chemical peel which will help to reduce the appearance of any spots.
Note: please consult with your doctor if you are breastfeeding before treating melasma
After delivery of your baby, progesterone and estrogen levels will rise resulting to an increase in sebum production and clogged pores. This type of acne will typically appear on the neck, chin and lower areas of your face, ranging from mild to severe. The bumps are generally red and painful to touch.
A product containing Benzoyl Peroxide (such as Obagi Clenziderm Therapeutic Lotion or La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment) is a safe option to treat acne when breastfeeding and will help to penetrate clogged pores. However, if you are suffering from painful, cystic acne, this likely will not clear your skin. A visit with the dermatologist would be recommended.
Hormonal changes can also result in dry skin immediately following pregnancy. Be sure to stick to a mild cleanser, lots of moisturizer, and drink plenty of water.
Enjoy that new baby, and make sure to show yourself some TLC to keep your skin looking and feeling great!