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How Pregnancy Affected My Vitiligo

Posted on December 06, 2021
Article written by
Danielle Wheeler

“You know, if you get pregnant, your vitiligo will go away! It happened to a friend of mine,” the lady at the coat check stated as she stared at my skin.

This assuming comment about my skin came out of nowhere. Like many interactions in the past, it caught me off guard, and I immediately had a million things racing through my mind. “How does she know I want kids, or can even have them?” I thought. I was just trying to check my coat before entering an art museum on a rainy day in Toronto.

Her comment has stuck with me through the years, and it was at top of mind last February when I knew I was expecting. I had heard pregnancy hormones can do all sorts of crazy things to your skin — acne, stretch marks, discolorations — and I wondered what it would do to my vitiligo. We know that pregnancy can suppress the immune system, and vitiligo is an autoimmune condition, so how would my body react?

I watched my belly and the spots on it grow. They began migrating like land masses on a globe post-Pangea. I tried to take inventory of how the patterns were affected. My skin did seem slightly more pigmented, but that always happens in the summer. Pigment comes in during the summer months and fades in the winter, but I wasn’t seeing my vitiligo retreat as the person working at the coat check said I might.

A Careful Examination of My Spots

At 28 weeks, we were informed that I had some complications that were going to force me to deliver early. The condition I was diagnosed with was called vasa previa, which can be fatal for the baby if not detected. The amount of stress was starting to pile up — normal pregnancy stress, plus pandemic stress, and now the added stress of an extremely rare complication. But through it all, I didn’t notice my skin depigmenting further — or repigmenting, for that matter. Even after an emergency cesarean section and a monthlong stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, there was still no change.

Throughout the pregnancy, and postpartum, I heard personal accounts from the vitiligo community regarding expectant and new mothers and their spots. There were a lot of moms with varying degrees of pigmentation stories. Some new mothers had lost pigment while breastfeeding or repigmented a certain number of weeks postpartum. But nobody had exactly the same story. Everybody’s experience was different, reaffirming what I already knew, having lived with vitiligo for nearly eight years: Everyone’s skin journey is their own, something I wish I could have articulated to that person in coat check on that rainy day in Toronto.

Many things can change your spots, pregnancy hormones being one of them, but just like everyone has their own unique vitiligo pattern, everyone also has their own unique vitiligo journey. I encourage you to go live your own story, and then share it. You never know who it will help.

My Perspective articles discuss vitiligo from a specific point of view. My Perspective articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyVitiligoTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyVitiligoTeam content isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Danielle Wheeler is a very proud vitiligan. She hopes her children's book "I've Got Spots!" will inspire readers to embrace the skin they're in. Learn more about her here.

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