Though pregnancy is a wonderful time but there are a few annoying conditions associated with it. Itching or pruritus is one of them.
You would notice that the bigger your bump gets, the itchier it becomes. As you body expands to accommodate the baby, many pregnant women experience mild itching on the belly, hips, thighs and breasts. A lot of pregnant women also complain of itching on palms and soles. According to experts, this itch is due to increase in the quantity of estrogen. The condition usually vanishes soon after delivery.
Causes of Itchy Skin During Pregnancy
Mild itching is quite common in pregnancy. The chief causes of pregnancy-itching are enumerated as under:
- Dry skin: Xerosis or dry skin can lead to itchy annoying skin condition. Skin dryness can be due to many factors such as cold and hot weather, excessive exposure to air conditioning or heating and too much bathing or washing. Some soaps and body washes can also be harsh on the skin and cause itching
- Growing abdomen: As the pregnancy advances, your abdomen increases in girth and the abdominal skin stretches to accommodate the growing baby, this makes the abdominal skin itchy
- Skin ailments: Skin infections such as eczema, psoriasis, lice, scabies, hives, etc. can also cause skin itching. Eczema usually gets worse during pregnancy. Some women feel that their condition of psoriasis does improve during pregnancy
- Internal diseases: Itching is noted in internal diseases namely malabsorption of wheat (celiac disease), liver problems, kidney problems, thyroid problems, iron deficiency anemia, leukemia, lymphoma, etc.
Itchy Skin in First Trimester
A higher degree of hormones are at play as soon as you conceive, and this makes your skin extremely sensitive. A delicate skin can feel itchy for a variety of reasons – skin dryness, wearing tight clothes, hot showers etc – to name a few.
Itchy Skin in Second Trimester
Severe skin itching commonly seen in second trimester of pregnancy is due to ICP or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. It is a condition whereby liver does not flow normally and smoothly in tiny ducts of your liver. This causes accumulation of bile salts in your skin and renders it itchy. This kind of itch is very intense and becomes worse in night.
Itchy Rashes During Pregnancy
Some possible reasons that can cause itchy rashes on your body during pregnancy are enlisted below. However, the symptoms can often be subsets of each other, so do not try to diagnose or self medicate yourself. Seek your doctor’s advice.
PUPPP-Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy): Some pregnant women develop a characteristic condition called PUPPP or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. The common symptoms of PUPPP are red itchy bumps and large hive-like patches on bellies. PUPPP is also called polymorphic eruption of pregnancy. This condition is common in third trimester and is more severe in twin pregnancy and in women delivering their first baby. The precise cause of PUPPP is still unknown. The eruptions of PUPPP appear first on abdomen and spread to buttocks, thighs and back while your arms and legs are often spared. Your doctor will prescribe a topical steroidal ointment for relieving the condition. Oral steroids are advised if the condition worsen. PUPPP is not at all a threatening condition and usually disappears soon after delivery.
Prurigo of pregnancy:It is a condition characterized by appearance of many small bumps looking like bug-bites initially and later on because of constant scratching they appear as little cuts with crust on them.
Prurigo of pregnancy is seen in the late second trimester and early third trimester. They can be treated by topical ointment and antihistaminics. Severe forms are cured by oral steroids. Like PUPPP, this condition also disappears with the birth of the newborn and does no damage to the health and wellness of the baby.
Pemphigoid gestationis: This is a rare condition seen during pregnancy where the expectant lady develops severe intense itchy eruptions looking like hives and ultimately turning as large blistering lesions. This itchy rash is termed as herpes gestationis or pemphigoid gestationis. These eruptions are commonly seen around your arms, legs, belly button, trunk, etc. The lesions are treated by oral steroids.
Since pemphigoid gestationis is associated with preterm delivery, stillbirths and fetal growth restrictions, it is therefore more serious than prurigo of pregnancy or PUPPP. Rashes are also seen in the newborns.
Consulting The Doctor For Itchy Skin
If you notice that itching worsens in your third trimester, particularly in your hands and feet with vomiting, nausea, and fatigue, it would be wise to consult a doctor. Some women develop a condition of cholestasis which could spell trouble for you and your baby and hence medical intervention is necessary.
Itchy Skin During Pregnancy – Treatment For Fast Relief
Depending upon the cause of itching, you can enlist what to avoid or refrain from. These precautionary measures will help you derive comfort in otherwise annoying situation.
- Stay away from hot baths and showers as it can make your skin dry and flaky
- Rinse soap properly and use a medicated non scented soap
- Gently use a towel to dry yourself and do not rub it hard on the skin
- An occasional oatmeal bath is recommended. Oatmeal bath preparations are easily accessible on a drugstore. Colloidal oatmeal – which is grounded whole oats can be soothing to itchy skin
- Apply an unscented moisturizer on your skin after taking bath or shower
- Refrain from going out in hot sunny weather because heat amplifies itching and redness of skin
- Avoid wearing tight-fitted clothing. Wear loose cotton clothes
- Calamine lotion can be used safely in pregnancy and is known to provide some relief
- Reduce your salt intake and drink a lot of water
- If the itch is too annoying and severe in nature, immediately consult your doctor without any delay
Can Itchy During Pregnancy Skin Harm My Baby?
In most cases, itchy skin will not affect your baby, unless you develop a liver problem called obstetric cholestasis (OC)in your third trimester of pregnancy. This is a rare condition and will it intensely itchy over all the large areas of your body and you will notice that itching mostly affects the palm of your hands, soles of the feet and worsens during night. The urine that you pass may be dark and your stools may be pale. The itching can be bad and make it quite hard to sleep. This condition can make you likely to have a premature delivery.