Hair, Skin, and Nail Changes During Pregnancy
By Erica Jeung, Certified Sports Nutritionist and Principal at BumpVitamins.com
THERE ARE SO MANY changes during pregnancy, it can feel like you aren’t “you” anymore. All of us know your abdomen grows as your baby grows, maybe you gain a few pounds, and sometimes even your feet can grow. Unfortunately, pregnancy can also affect what some women consider their other pride and joy… hair, skin, and nails.
Did you know that during pregnancy, some women’s hair stops growing entirely? Or in some cases, hair can start growing in new or strange places?! There are several bizarre changes that can occur in a pregnant woman’s body. Many of them are necessary for a growing baby to thrive and some of them are just annoying side effects with seemingly no purpose other than making you uncomfortable and insecure.
Several of the more annoying superficial changes occur especially in the health and appearance of your hair. Your hair may become thin or thick, greasy or dry, fall out or grow like crazy. The skin may become dry or oily or acne-covered and nails may turn thin and brittle. Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different.
Throughout my first pregnancy my hair was so greasy it would repel water. Then, after I gave birth to my first child and before my second, my scalp became so dry that I had dandruff for the first time in my 36 years on earth. I experienced a complete 180° with my hair and scalp within just a few months’ time.
During my second pregnancy (which began only 5 months after my first) my hair again went the opposite direction and became really thick and frizzy, growing faster than it ever had before. While I was complaining about my thick, fast-growing hair, some of my other pregnant friends were experiencing hair loss and thinning that had them so worried that they were borderline depressed.
Skin and Nails
Many changes can happen to your skin and nails too. Just like your hair, your skin can become oily or dry, you might have more breakouts or fewer breakouts, some people even grow moles! When it comes to your nails, they may become stronger and grow faster or they can do the opposite and become brittle or grow slowly.
At the same time as these annoying hair, skin, and nail changes are occurring, some of the more amazing changes in the body are also occurring. Such as blood volume increasing by 30-50%, joints becoming more flexible, and creating an entirely new organ to supply the tiny human growing inside you!
What causes it?
So what is causing all of these changes in the body? Hormones! That’s right, our hormones are what regulate not only our menstrual cycle, they also allow our bodies to become pregnant and stay pregnant. When you become pregnant it is up to your endocrine system, our hormone factory, to produce the right amount of hormones to keep the pregnancy viable.
Progesterone is the first hormone detected in high levels and assists in the implantation of the fertilized egg.Estrogen is another key hormone that is essential to a viable pregnancy. As well as many of the other hair, skin and nail changes, estrogen and progesterone are also often linked to morning sickness, hair growth, and the pregnancy “glow” that some women experience.
The endocrine system is truly amazing and is essential to our ability to create life. It is really important to be aware of it and support it to ensure that it is in the best shape possible before, during, and after childbirth. In order to keep your endocrine system and your hormones functioning the way they should, you need to make sure you are consuming the proper nutrients, exercising regularly, eliminating unnecessary stress, and getting plenty of sleep.
Keeping your Hair and Nails healthy during Pregnancy
Some of the most important nutrients for hair, skin, and nails are antioxidants like vitamins, A, C, and E. B vitamins, collagen, omega 3’s, and zinc also promote hair, skin, and nail health. Making sure you are getting quality vitamins in the right amounts is so important, especially during pregnancy. It is also important to get your prenatal vitamins from a trusted source. Ideally, you want to make sure any supplements you take are made in the USA by GMP-certified manufacturers, so you have some assurance that you are actually getting what is printed on the label and nothing less (or more).
During pregnancy, your body needs access to all the essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids in proper amounts. Not only to supply your body with what it needs, but to nourish your tiny human. If you are not getting enough of certain nutrients, your body is capable of finding these nutrients from stores inside your body. For instance, if you aren’t consuming enough calcium your body will pull it from your bones to provide for your baby. Obviously, this is not an ideal solution because it can weaken your bones and skeletal system, especially if this takes place over the course of multiple pregnancies.
This is why nearly all doctors will recommend taking prenatal vitamins through your entire pregnancy and many even recommend taking a prenatal prior to pregnancy if you are trying to conceive. Many doctors also recommend a postnatal supplement after childbirth, while you are breastfeeding, that is lower in iron and higher in vitamin D than typical prenatal.
Covering Your Nutritional Bases
Of course, it is best to get your nutrients from food sources whenever possible, but it is not advised to risk having any gaps in your nutrient intake if you are not able to eat a balanced diet at all times. Eating a diet rich in ALL the nutrients we need is always a challenge. You would have to eat anywhere from 6-10 servings of fruits and veggies a day and that still might not be enough.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9 out of 10 adults are not getting the recommended amount of essential nutrients from their diets. That is where vitamins and supplements can make a huge difference in your hair/skin/nails as well as your overall health. Taking a high-quality dietary supplement is a little like nutritional insurance… it can go a long way toward easing the daily worry that you might not be providing your baby with everything he or she needs to grow.
Keep the Faith
Pregnancy and all the wonderful things that come along with it can be stressful. I once read that pregnancy is like running a marathon every day for 40 weeks, so as your body changes and your hair, skin, and nails change, remember you are creating life and it isn’t easy. Rest assured that your body can and will bounce back, eat your fruits and veggies, exercise, and don’t forget to take your vitamins!
 “Hormones During Pregnancy.” John Hopkins Medicine, 2020. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/staying-healthy-during-pregnancy/hormones-during-pregnancy
 “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits and Vegetables.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 16, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html