Pregnancy brings lots of bodily changes, some of them pleasant and some not so much. One bothersome problem that some women experience during pregnancy is itchy skin. Estimates are that about one in five women will experience itching at some point during their pregnancy. This makes it one of the more common pregnancy-related problems.
What Causes It?
Itching during pregnancy is usually due to hormonal changes. As a woman’s abdomen and breasts expand, it causes the overlying skin to stretch, which can lead to irritation and itching. Intense itching that starts late in pregnancy can be a sign of a condition called cholestatis of pregnancy. During pregnancy, levels of pregnancy-related hormones rise, and this can affect how the gallbladder and liver function. When this happens, it causes bile to build up in the liver and enter the blood stream. This leads to intense itching, usually involving the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, although it can occur anywhere. More importantly, it can affect the growing fetus, increasing the risk of premature birth and stillbirth. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor if itching during pregnancy is a problem.
Pregnancy can make some pre-existing skin conditions such as dry skin and eczema worse. There are also several other less common skin conditions related to pregnancy that cause intense itching and hive-like rashes. If you have an obvious rash, it’s important to see a doctor.
For itching during pregnancy that’s related to hormonal changes and skin irritation and stretching, there are treatments that can help. Simple measures like using a gentle, non-irritating body wash can help ease the itch. Belli Pampered Pregnancy Body Wash contains natural anti-inflammatories like cucumber, green tea and chamomile to soothe itchy skin naturally. It’s safe to use during pregnancy and contains no harmful phthalates that could be harmful to a growing baby.
Avoid cleansing with water that’s too hot since that can make the itching worse. Unscented moisturizers are best since fragrances can cause skin irritation. Mustela Ultimate Hydration nourishes dry, irritated skin and eases itching through the power of wheat germ and glycerin. It contains no harmful chemicals like phthalates and parabens that could be harmful to baby. It feels soothing going on and helps to hydrate dry, irritated skin.
Oatmeal baths also help to ease irritation and itching. Drugstores sell pre-prepared oatmeal baths for itch relief, but you can also make your own at home. Be sure to use water that’s warm but not hot, and follow up with a moisturizer.
Another way to relieve skin itching during pregnancy is to wear, loose cotton fabrics that breathe and avoid synthetics. Stay away from heat and sunlight as much as possible. If you live in a dry environment, invest in a humidifier to add moisture to the air to keep skin from becoming more dry and irritated. Avoid using bubble baths and other scented bath products.
There are over-the-counter antihistamines that can help to relieve itching, but don’t take these without consulting your doctor first. Not all medications are safe to use during pregnancy.
The Bottom Line?
Itchy skin during pregnancy is a common problem that’s usually due to hormonal changes and worsening of problems such as dry skin, but it can sometimes be a sign of more serious problems that can affect a growing fetus. See your doctor for persistent itching or a hive-like rash. Most itching can be controlled by using a fragrance-free cleanser and moisturizer and by avoiding hot baths and exposure to heat. The good news? The itching should resolve once hormone levels return to normal after birth.