Skin Tags During Pregnancy: Why They Happen and How To Deal

Learn more about these benign skin changes, why they happen during pregnancy, and how to treat them

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on July 23rd, 2021

Of the many skin changes which can occur during pregnancy, skin tags may be among the least expected. These small growths, which may be triggered by hormone changes, weight gain, or friction from constrictive clothing, are largely benign.

Though a skin tag won’t harm you, some people prefer to remove them either via medical intervention or a natural home remedy, especially if they are causing irritation or are on a highly visible area, such as the face. These are the only safe ways to remove skin tags, which, when related to pregnancy, are likely to go away on their own some time after giving birth.

Ready to learn more?

What is a skin tag?

A small, flexible, fleshy growth protruding from the skin, skin tags are growths which most commonly occur in places where skin folds — under the armpits and breasts, around your thighs and genitals, and on your neck. 

Per the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, about 50% of all adults have at least one of these growths , which typically don’t start developing until the onset of puberty.1aocd.org Skin tags

While the exact cause of skin tag formation both during and outside of pregnancy is not known, doctors and scientists have a number of theories. Skin tags commonly occur in areas where skin folds and in both pregnant people and those with obesity, leading many to correlate their occurrence with friction, weight changes, and hormonal fluctuations. 

What causes skin tags during pregnancy?

Per one clinical study, about one in five women will experience skin changes during pregnancy, with skin tags making up about 12% of the changes.2pubmed.gov A clinical study of skin changes in pregnancy

Of course, despite what some “old wives’ tales” suggest, skin tags aren’t a predictor of your baby’s gender, nor are they an early pregnancy symptom — they don’t tend to crop up until the second trimester.

Because your body is changing a great deal during pregnancy, it can be hard to pinpoint an exact cause for the appearance of skin tags, but these culprits are among the most likely:

Increased leptin and/or estrogen levels

Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, including increases in both leptin and estrogen levels, have been correlated with the potential for skin tag development.3ncbi.gov Correlation between Serum Leptin Level with Type and Number of Lesion Skin Tag

Leptin, which is associated with the development of epithelial cells — skin cells which line our bodies, blood vessels, and major organ systems — is released by both a mother and fetus during pregnancy. The hormone has been linked via study to skin tag development, as noted above, and logic dictates that the body’s extra drive to produce skin could result in the appearance of skin tags. 

The link between the female sex hormone estrogen and the occurrence of skin tags is reinforced not only by study, but by the fact that skin tags do not commonly begin appearing in female children until puberty, a time when, like pregnancy, a significant influx of estrogen is introduced to the body.

Weight gain and related friction

In some cases, weight gain and the increased friction it can cause are at the root of skin tag development. It’s common for these to present in areas where skin meets in a fold — for example, developing underarm, neck, or vaginal skin tags during pregnancy is common.

If you’re wondering how to prevent skin tags during pregnancy, one of few ways to try and stop them from developing is to keep your weight gain within the range recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For a woman of average weight, this is 25 to 35 lbs.

Identifying skin tags

Unlike a wart, mole, or freckle, or pimple, a skin tag is a small portion of excess skin connected to the skin’s surface by a stalk-like protrusion. 

Skin tags are, by nature, benign. If a growth is not benign, it is not a skin tag.

The most likely places for skin tags to appear are under the arms, around the genitals, on the inner thighs, near the eyelids, and on the neck. Skin tags on breasts during pregnancy growth are also common.

Skin tags should not be painful, but may become irritated if they are rubbed by constricting clothing or become caught while dressing or undressing.

Skin tag treatment and removal

If your skin tags are a new development relative to your pregnancy, you may wish to wait a while after your baby is born before pursuing any kind of removal. This is because skin tags may dry up, fall off, and disappear entirely after your baby is born and as your weight and hormone levels change.

However, if you’d prefer them gone sooner rather than later, or they’re sticking around months after birth, you may want to explore one of these options.

NOTE: Do NOT opt for over-the-counter skin tag removal products, which may cause chemical burns, or try to physically remove the skin tag without the aid of a doctor, which can lead to significant bleeding and present the opportunity for infection. The only removal methods we can safely recommend are a doctor’s care or natural, gentle home remedies.

At your doctor’s office

Cryosurgery

In this procedure, your doctor will use liquid nitrogen to freeze and remove the skin tag. Healing time for this procedure may be significant, depending on where the skin tag is located on your body.4ads.net What is cryosurgery?

Excising or Cauterizing

During a cauterization procedure, a tool which uses significant heat or electricity is used to burn off the skin tag after a numbing agent has been applied. In an excision procedure, the growth is simply removed via a scalpel or medical scissors, though stitches may sometimes be needed if the resulting wound is large. 

Natural home treatments

Garlic

Though this remedy is largely anecdotal, science has acknowledged garlic’s antioxidant properties, which may mean it’s worth a try.5ncbi.gov Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of fresh garlic and aged garlic by-products extracted with different solvents

Some new mothers claim to have found success in treating their skin tags by using either fresh garlic or fresh garlic juice applied to a bandage and changed daily until the growth falls off. The official veracity of this is unknown, and owing to garlic’s strong smell, it’s likely best done at home only. 

Apple cider vinegar

Having gained quite a following for its dietary benefits and dermatological applications, apple cider vinegar makes an excellent drying toner which may help skin tags to dry up and fall off. A targeted daily treatment with a Q-tip will help you make sure the rest of your skin doesn’t dry out along with the growth.

When you should see a doctor

If you notice a new skin growth that does not meet the definition of a skin tag, observe it closely. Remember, a skin tag will have the following characteristics:

  • Appears near places where skin meets, like the neck, underarms, genitals, etc
  • Attached to the body by a short, fleshy stalk
  • Flexible and mostly painless
  • Does not change shape or size

If the growth you are observing does not meet these characteristics, especially if it is asymmetrical, painful, changing shape, or bleeding, please see your doctor right away. These can be an indication of more serious skin conditions, including cancer.

Our takeaways

While skin tags may not be a desirable or expected side effect of pregnancy, the good news is that they are normal, benign, painless, and likely to vanish on their own. If you’d like to speed the process, trying a safe, natural home remedy or a visit to your doctor are the best places to start.

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Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on July 23rd, 2021
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