I have just recently had a baby boy, everything is fine there. But since I had my son, my hand and my fingers have dried out a lot. I seem to be getting some kind of infection at the side of my nails and I have never had anything of this nature before. It's very sore and irritating and even my hair has gone dry. Could you give me an idea of how to treat or improve the condition of my hands?
Most women find that after having a child the condition of their skin and hair changes - I speak from personal as well as medical experience as I've had very similar problems to you!
There are several factors which contribute to these changes, especially to dryness of the skin. The most important ones to think about are:
Changes in hormone levels
While you are pregnant, the high levels of female hormones essential for changing your body to support the growing baby can have a dramatic effect on your skin and hair. Most women find that their skin seems to bloom - and their hair is thicker andmore luxurious when they are pregnant (partly because the rate of hair loss drops). There is also an increase in the blood supply to the skin and hair during pregnancy, which adds to this effect.
Unfortunately after you have had your baby, the hormone levels fall back to pre-pregnancy levels and the circulation returns to normal. This usually means that the improvements seen in pregnancy are lost. Sometimes skin and hair even return to a condition quite different to - or worse than - before the pregnancy. Part of what you are noticing may simply be those changes.
Washing your hands
Another important factor is that, with a small child around, it's highly likely that you are washing your hands far more than you used to, either because you are changing your son or bathing him or washing his clothes. This can lead to mild inflammation, dryness and even cracking of the skin, especially of the hands because these are the parts getting wet.
When the skin cracks it is easier for bacteria to get in and cause infection such as the ones you have been getting around your fingernails (these are known as paronychia).
Reactions to detergents and chemicals
Many women change detergents when they start a family, or certainly find they are washing some things by hand. You may have an allergy to your detergent.
You are also probably coming into contact with all sorts of other chemicals, from baby wipes, creams and lotions to a variety of other household products. These may be drying your skin.
Pregnancy can change the body in not always explainable ways. Many women find their body is simply never the same again. But pregnancy must also simply coincide with the development of other medical problems so if you are still worried, or the problems persist, do make sure you see your doctor.
Tips to alleviate dryness
- Moisturize thoroughly and frequently - use Vaseline or simple products as these are all that is needed. Studies have shown that expensive skin creams and remoisturising products are in the long run no more helpful than cheap creams.
- Always protect your hands with rubber gloves when you are washing up or using detergents.
- Try to pinpoint any possible things you are coming into contact with which is aggravating your symptoms. Make a diary of your typical week and note anything your hands may come into contact with.
- Talk to your doctor if symptoms persist - there are a few rare causes of dry skin and dry hair, such as thyroid problems, which may need to be ruled out.