The first trimester of pregnancy comes along with many body changes, including an increased propensity for dry skin. In addition to being bothersome, dry skin is more vulnerable to infection, making it more important to prevent it from the start. If dry skin strikes despite your best efforts, simple and effective treatment usually can be performed at home.
Skin may become drier than usual during the first trimester of pregnancy for two main reasons. First, surging pregnancy hormones can make skin oils act strangely. Sometimes the skin produces more oil, leading to acne. Fighting the breakouts by washing more often leads to dryness. Other times, hormones cause skin to make less oil, causing dryness and less elasticity. Dry skin also may result from loss of body fluids. A pregnant body needs more fluids than usual to keep up with increasing blood supply and the developing baby's requirements. Insufficient intake of fluids can cause dry skin.
Several things can be done to prevent dry skin. Stay hydrated by drinking enough water and other non-caffeinated beverages during the day. Eat good fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados and nuts. Use a gentle soap or non-soap cleanser, and clean the skin only when necessary. Pat the skin dry rather than rubbing it after getting out of a shower or pool. Finally, after drying off, use a gentle hydrating lotion, preferably one without scents or dyes, which will help lock moisture in the skin.
In most cases, dry skin can be treated easily with an over-the-counter hydrating lotion and by increasing water intake. Prescription treatments also are available for severe cases. In addition, limit the time spent in a bath or shower to minimize loss of the natural oils that keep skin hydrated. Using a humidifier also can increase skin moisture.
Dry skin can easily become itchy skin, leading to scratching. Scratching can cause tiny tears in the skin, opening the possibility of infection or skin scarring. If there is a personal or family history of eczema -- itchy, red, scaly patches of skin -- dry skin can promote eczema flare-ups. The skin irritation related to eczema creates cracks that are prone to infection. Severe dry skin should be evaluated by a doctor to determine whether more aggressive treatment is necessary.