Skin Tags During Pregnancy: Why They Happen and How To Treat Them

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 December 12th, 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 appear 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 after the baby is born.

Ready to learn more?

What is a skin tag?

A small, flexible, fleshy growth protruding from the skin, skin tags are growths that most commonly occur in places where skin folds, e.g., under the armpits and breasts, around the thighs and genitals, and on the 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 after pregnancy is not known, doctors and scientists have a number of theories.

Skin tags commonly occur in pregnant, or overweight, people in areas where skin folds, suggesting they’re caused by friction, weight change, or 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 such changes. 2pubmed.gov A clinical study of skin changes in pregnancy

Despite the suggestion of some old wives’ tales, skin tags are neither a predictor of a baby’s gender nor an early pregnancy symptom and don’t usually appear until the second trimester.

Because your body is changing so much during pregnancy, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact cause for the appearance of skin tags, though the following are among the most likely:

Increased leptin and/or estrogen levels

Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, including an increase in both leptin and estrogen levels, have been suggested as a cause of 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, or skin cells which line our bodies, blood vessels, and major organ systems, is released by both a mother and a fetus during pregnancy.

This hormone has been linked, via studies, to skin tag development, as noted above, while it follows that the body’s increased drive to produce skin could result in the appearance of skin tags. 

The link between the female sex hormone, estrogen, and the appearance of skin tags is reinforced not only by studies but by the fact that skin tags do not commonly occur in female children until they reach puberty, when, as with pregnancy, a significant influx of estrogen is introduced to the body.

Weight gain and related friction

In some cases, weight gain, along with the increased friction it can cause, is at the root of skin tag development.

It’s common for these to present in areas where skin meets in a fold, e.g., underarm, neck or vaginal skin tags that develop during pregnancy is common.

If you’re wondering how to prevent skin tags during pregnancy, one way 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 means between 25 and 35 lbs.

Identifying skin tags

Unlike a wart, mole, 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 it’s not benign, it’s not a skin tag.

The most likely places to find skin tags are under the arms, around the genitals, on the inner thighs, near the eyelids, or on the neck. Skin tags are also commonly found on breasts during pregnancy growth.

Skin tags are rarely painful but can become irritated if rubbed by constricting clothing or caught while dressing or undressing.

Skin tag treatment and removal

If skin tags have become a new development during your pregnancy, wait till after your baby is born before considering any kind of removal.

This is because skin tags can dry up, fall off, or disappear entirely after birth, as your weight and hormone levels change.

However, if you’d prefer them gone sooner, or they’re still around months after birth, you may want to explore one of the following 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. 4ads.net What is cryosurgery?

Excising or Cauterizing

During the cauterization procedure, a tool that 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, while stitches may be required if the resulting wound is large. 

Natural home treatments

Garlic

Though this remedy is largely anecdotal, science has acknowledged garlic’s antioxidant properties, which suggests 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 have succeeded 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 accuracy of this remains unknown and, owing to garlic’s strong smell, it’s best done at home. 

Apple cider vinegar

Well known for its dietary benefits and dermatological applications, apple cider vinegar makes an excellent drying toner that may help skin tags dry up and fall off.

Targeted daily treatment with a Q-tip will ensure that the rest of your skin doesn’t dry out along with the growth.

When to see a doctor

If you detect a skin growth that doesn’t meet the definition of a skin tag, keep an eye on it closely. Remember, a skin tag has 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’ve found doesn’t resemble any of these, especially if it’s asymmetrical, painful, changes shape, or bleeds, then visit your doctor at once.

These could indicate a more serious skin condition, including cancer.

Our takeaways

While a skin tag may be an unwanted, unexpected side effect of pregnancy, rest assured that they’re normal, benign, painless, and are likely to disappear on their own.

If you’d like to speed up the process, we suggest you try a safe, natural home remedy or pay a visit to your doctor.

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on December 12th, 2021
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