Itching During Pregnancy

Julie Kirk
Pregnant woman applying cream on tummy

Itchy skin during pregnancy is quite common and the intensity of the itching can range from mild to severe. There are a number of reasons why the itching may happen as well as a number of ways to soothe it and find some relief.

Causes of Itching During Pregnancy

Itchiness of your skin can happen at any time during your pregnancy. The potential causes of itchy skin include:

Hormonal Changes

The increase of hormones produced during pregnancy can contribute to itchy skin.

Dry Skin

When the skin stretches (especially at the belly and breasts) during pregnancy, there is a loss of moisture which can cause dryness and itchiness.

Eczema

Some women will develop pregnancy-induced eczema (a very itchy, red, bumpy rash). If you have already been diagnosed with eczema prior to becoming pregnant, the pregnancy could trigger a flare-up.

Hives

Hives are red bumps or raised patches of itchy skin that occur due to an allergic reaction from food, insect bites, animal dander, environmental allergens, etc. Hives may occur during pregnancy because you have become more sensitive to certain allergens due to the changes in your body from the pregnancy as well as the increase in hormones.

PUPPP

PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) is a common, harmless rash that occurs typically toward the end of pregnancy. These red, bumpy, itchy patches are found on the belly at the area of stretch marks and can spread to your buttocks, arms and legs. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream that will prevent the rash from spreading and will also provide some relief from the discomfort. Typically, PUPPP goes away after you deliver.

Cholestasis of Pregnancy

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is a serious liver condition that can occur in the third trimester of pregnancy. The symptoms include severe itching of the palms of your hands and soles of your feet but could include anywhere on your body. The itching can worsen at night and can even become so intense that it becomes unbearable. The doctor may choose to deliver your baby a little early depending on the severity of your symptoms. Typically, the itching will resolve within a few days after you deliver. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, jaundice and loss of appetite. Complications from cholestasis are rare but include, preterm delivery, lung problems for the baby and stillbirth.

Tips to Relieve Itching During Pregnancy

The following are a few suggestions that may provide some relief from the itching. These include:

  • A soothing, moisturizing lotion or a rich, thick skin cream that contains cocoa butter, vitamin E or jojoba oil may help. You should avoid moisturizers that contain perfume.
  • Using calamine lotion, which can be dabbed directly on the rash. It contains skin protecting, astringent properties that will help soothe and dry the rash.
  • Taking an oatmeal bath or adding cornstarch to your bath which can provide some relief from itching.
  • Placing a damp cool cloth or an ice pack wrapped in a towel directly on the itchy area.
  • Avoiding hot showers as hot water can further dry your skin. Take short, warm showers or a bath instead.
  • Avoiding scented soaps or laundry detergents which could potentially irritate your skin. Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and laundry detergents.
  • Wearing loose clothing made from a breathable fabric such as cotton.
  • Using a humidifier to help put moisture back in the air. This will help your skin as well.
  • Taking an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl. However, you must first get your doctors approval.
  • Do not scratch your itchy skin. It will only make the itching worse.

When Should You Talk to Your Doctor

You should always let your doctor know if you are experiencing any itching with your pregnancy. However, you should talk to him immediately if you are experiencing possible symptoms of cholestasis such as:

  • Itching on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.
  • Becoming jaundice (yellowing of the skin).
  • You're having nausea associated with the itching.

It is normal to have some itching during pregnancy. However, if you are having symptoms in addition to the itching, it is important you contact your doctor.

Do Not Ignore the Itching

Itching during pregnancy can be a mere annoyance to extremely uncomfortable but most importantly, it should never be ignored. Any issues with itching should be discussed with your doctor. He will then determine the cause of the itchiness and ultimately provide you relief from the discomfort.

Itching During Pregnancy