When you are pregnant, you morph and change in many wonderful ways. Everything from your body shape to your fingernails is affected by the hormonal hurricane, but things usually return to their former state once the baby is born - okay, so your belly may never be the flat body part it once was, let’s be honest.
I remember one of the things that appeared seemingly overnight during my pregnancy were skin tags. These are excess growths of skin, usually in areas of the body that are rubbed or irritated (like half your body when you are pregnant), so they are common during pregnancy and usually appear around your arm pits, groin area, breasts or areas where your bra might rub). They generally disappear after pregnancy as mysteriously as they arrived. But what if that skin tag isn’t a skin tag?
During my second pregnancy, I did develop skin tags. I had them under my armpits, right at my bra line, and I also had one on my neck, just above my collarbone. After my son was born, the tags under my arms disappeared, but the one on my neck did not. In fact, it started to itch. Then, after the itching, came bleeding. I immediately scheduled an appointment with my dermatologist.
She took one look at it with those super weird magnifying glasses on her face, and said, “I’ll be taking that off your neck right now, and please change into this dressing gown, and we’re doing a full body check.” So, what I originally thought was a skin tag turned out (after biopsy) to be skin cancer. Good news is that it was basal cell, which does not generally spread or metastasize. However, it did alert me to the fact that all my years as a lifeguard had caught up with me.
One of the risk factors for basal cell carcinoma is long-term exposure to UV rays, and I certainly had my share of those every day of the summer months for the better part of high school and college. Another is being fair haired/skinned (which I am), and yet another is a suppressed immune system. I was taking prednisone for the first four months of my pregnancy (an immune suppressant drug).
No way to tell how heavily each of those factors weighed-in, but the end result is that I now have a full body check every six months. I just had two more basal cell carcinomas surgically removed this week, and two new and exciting squamish cell carcinomas frozen off (Squamish is a cancer that can spread, but the two found were in the earliest stage, just on the skin, not into the fatty tissue yet).
Moral of the story: expect changes during pregnancy. Embrace them! But if something doesn’t go back to (relative) normal, or continues to change after the baby is born, bring it up with your doctor.