As your stomach gets bigger during pregnancy, you may have noticed that other areas of your skin have started to change too. For many women, some of pregnancy’s multiple side effects come as a bit of a surprise, but perhaps none more so than the development of skin tags.
Skin tags in pregnancy are actually a relatively common change, particularly when you’re in your second trimester. Yet, even though they may come as a shock, you can rest assured you’re certainly not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. Around half of all adults will develop at least one skin tag in their lifetime and although they aren’t especially aesthetically pleasing, they’re completely harmless so you don’t need to worry.
- What Is a Skin Tag?
- Why Am I Developing More Skin Tags in Pregnancy?
- What Does a Skin Tag Look Like?
- Where Do Skin Tags in Pregnancy From?
- If I Develop Skin Tags in Pregnancy, Will They Go Away?
- Is It Possible to Prevent the Development of Skin Tags in Pregnancy?
- Is It Safe to Remove Skin Tags in Pregnancy?
- Is My Skin Tag a Problem?
- How Are Skin Tags in Pregnancy Treated?
- Are There Any Home Remedies for Skin Tags in Pregnancy?
- Skin Tags in Pregnancy – A Final Word
What Is a Skin Tag?
Skin tags are small tissue growths which stick out of the skin’s surface. Virtually always benign, skin tags won’t change or get larger over time.
Fortunately, skin tags typically are painless too, unless they rub on jewelry or clothing causing them to become inflamed, irritated or twisted. Often forming in areas of the skin with folds like under the breasts, in the armpits or around the neck, they can start developing in children from as young an age as around 10 years.
Since around 50% of adults have one or more skin tags according to the AOCD (American Osteopathic College of Dermatology), there’s no need to be excessively concerned in the vast majority of cases. However, you probably want to know why developing skin tags in pregnancy is so common. So, read on, and learn more about this frequently-seen occurrence.
You develop skin tags because of hyperactive growth in the skin’s outer layer. Often found in older people, they’re also common in expectant mothers due to the hormonal changes that are associated with pregnancy. A 2019 study revealed that there was a strong link between skin tags and the level of leptin in the body. The hormone leptin promotes the growth and differentiation of skin cells and since both fat tissues from the fetus and pregnant woman herself secrete leptin, this helps to explain why there is a greater chance of increased skin tag growth at this time.
Another common cause of skin tags is weight gain, which also occurs during pregnancy. Friction that occurs in folds of the skin when you gain weight can cause skin tags to form, and as the ACOG recommends that expectant mothers gain between 11lbs and 40lbs during those nine months of pregnancy, it isn’t too surprising that they’re a relatively common occurrence.
For women who have family members with skin tags, the chances of developing them are even higher.
- A study carried out in 2007 found that around a fifth of all women go through dermatological changes when pregnant and of those changes, around 12% present in the form of skin tags. It’s possible that some of these form at this time due to sex hormones and their influence on the body.
- A study from 2010 showed that there may be a link between skin tags and higher levels of estrogen. This evidence has been supported by the fact most skin tags form after puberty which is a time of significant hormonal change. Since women also produce a lot of estrogen when pregnant, it isn’t too surprising that more skin tags are likely to form.
What Does a Skin Tag Look Like?
Skin tags are usually flesh-colored, but they may also be slightly darker. Often, they hang off the body on a thin, short stalk which is connected to the skin’s surface. Generally, they’re quite small, measuring around 1 – 5mm in size. They feel soft to the touch and can be easily moved backwards and forwards.
Typically, these skin growths will appear on the surface of the skin in areas that are moist and hot, and usually where friction occurs due to skin rubbing either against clothing or against itself. For this reason, they tend to appear in the armpits, inner thighs, torso, neck folds, on the genitals or underneath the breasts.
When you’re pregnant, skin tags can emerge at any of these common sites as well as in any other where weight has been gained. Different women gain weight differently in pregnancy, so those areas can vary between individuals.
There are also no clear statistics about how many or where skin tags are likely to form in pregnancy. However, wherever they develop, they won’t usually pose any problems unless they’re snagged or get caught on jewelry or clothing. If this occurs, slight irritation is usually the result, but pain can sometimes occur too.
Often, skin tags developed in pregnancy will shrink after giving birth and may eventually go away by themselves without you needing to treat them in any way. Even when they don’t completely disappear, they will usually become smaller and simple to remove if you wish to eradicate them entirely.
Many pregnant women think that it would be best to prevent the development of skin tags in pregnancy rather than trying to remove them afterwards. Unfortunately, though, that isn’t possible. Skin tags cannot be prevented whether in pregnancy or at any other time. Nevertheless, if they are bothersome to you it’s usually possible for a doctor to remove them easily.
Although it’s technically possible to remove skin tags in pregnancy quite safely, doctors will usually recommend that you wait until you’ve finished with breastfeeding as they may shrink and eventually go away without needing to take any medical action.
If you’ve found that yours are still there long after giving birth, or they become irritated, it’s possible for a qualified dermatologist to remove them with ease. There are several methods available for treating skin tags including cauterizing them, cutting them off, or freezing them using liquid nitrogen. All are quick and effective options.
However, just because a dermatologist can remove your skin tag easily doesn’t mean that you should ever try removing one yourself. If you try cutting your own skin tag off you could cause excessive bleeding and even an infection.
You should also avoid using any DIY products which contain chemicals designed to burn skin tags off. You cannot tell whether the ingredients used in the formulation of these products are safe. For this reason, you should always visit your doctor if you want your skin tags removed safely.
If skin tags are removed, one won’t usually grow again on the same spot. But, be aware that a new skin tag may appear on another part of your body at some point in the future.
Is My Skin Tag a Problem?
Most skin tags are completely harmless and can be left alone without any concerns. However, if you’re self-conscious about yours and want it removed, you should see your doctor.
If your skin tag has become painful, has changed color, has bleeding or raw patches, or isn’t the same color as the skin surrounding it you should see a dermatologist, especially if the growth is firm and cannot be easily wiggled.
In most cases, skin tags won’t be painful, but they can get caught on jewelry and clothing which may cause them to get sore and bleed. In such cases, you may want to consider their removal. Also, if your skin tags are very visible and affect your self-confidence and self-esteem you may prefer to have them treated by a professional.
In some cases, you may find that you skin tag falls off by itself if the tissue has become twisted and has died due to the blood supply being cut off.
Some skin tags that develop during pregnancy will disappear once your baby is born. However, don’t be too surprised if yours doesn’t. If you find that you’re left with unsightly skin growths after giving birth there are a number of possible treatment options which you can have to get rid of them quickly and safely:
- Excision – this is a surgical procedure which involves cutting or snipping off the skin tag using a scalpel or scissors. In the case of large skin tags, it’s possible stitches could be required.
- Cryosurgery – this procedure involves freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen to remove it.
- Cauterization – skin tags can easily be removed if they are burned off using electrical energy or high heat.
- Ligation – in the case of small skin tags with narrow bases, ligation could be the ideal solution. This involves tying the skin tags off at its base with cotton or dental floss so the blood supply to it is cut off and so it drops off on its own.
Sometimes, a local anesthetic will be used on the area of skin to be treated before the skin tag removal procedure is carried out to ensure that you experience no discomfort.
There are some small risks associated with these treatment options. For example, burning or freezing off the skin tags may cause temporary discoloration of the skin as well as some irritation. In some cases, the growth may also fail to fall off so more treatment could be necessary. Meanwhile, removal via surgery offers the benefit of the growth being completely removed, however a minor risk of bleeding is a possibility.
When you’re pregnant, it’s always best to avoid using any chemicals or harsh treatments which may be absorbed into your skin unless your doctor or health professional recommends their use.
With this in mind, using home remedies to treat your newly developed skin tags could be the ideal solution. These treatments are suitable for at-home use and could help to dry out skin tags naturally and safely.
- Using apple cider vinegar – due to the acidic nature of apple cider vinegar it has drying properties which can help to dry out your skin tags so that they may fall off. You can dip a cotton swab into the vinegar and apply it directly to the growth – take care to avoid the skin surrounding the skin tag as it could cause burns.
- Use tea tree oil – this is another popular choice of skin treatment thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Since tea tree oil may help to reduce inflammation it represents a good treatment if your skin tag has become irritated or snagged.
- Garlic juice – fresh garlic has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties and although there isn’t any scientific proof, it has been reported that some people have had success in removing their skin tags by putting a little garlic juice directly onto them then covering them with a fresh bandage every day until the growth eventually falls off.
The main benefit of trying these home remedies for skin tags in pregnancy is that they shouldn’t cause you or your growing baby any harm. However, there’s no proof that any of them will fully resolve your skin growth issues. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, skin tags are benign, relatively painless growths so can be left alone without any worries or negative consequences.
On the other hand, if your skin tags are infected or painful, or if you’re worried that they could be something more sinister, you should always consult with your physician to get an accurate diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment.
Although skin tags aren’t especially attractive, they are fairly common in pregnancy and usually aren’t anything to be worried about. They develop for many reasons at any time in your life, but during pregnancy you’re more at risk of developing them due to hormonal changes and weight gain. There’s no need to treat your skin tags in pregnancy as they’re harmless, but if yours are painful or uncomfortable due to rubbing or snagging, or are seriously impacting on your self-esteem there are both at-home remedies and medical treatments that you can try.
Hopefully, you now have all the information you need to reassure you about any skin tags that develop while you’re expecting, and you can determine when or if you should get them treated.