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Itching in Pregnancy: What’s Normal and What’s Not?

itching in pregnancyAre you itching like crazy? Itchiness in pregnancy is a normal symptom in the second and third trimester, and it’s often nothing that should worry you. Many pregnant women will experience itchy skin around their abdomen and breasts. Some expecting mothers have itchiness and redness on their palms and the soles of their feet.

Causes of Normal Itchiness During Pregnancy

Like every other pregnancy symptom, you can blame your hormonal changes for your itchiness. The itchiness on your palms and the soles of your feet may be related to the increase in estrogen that occurs in pregnancy. (Estrogen is also the reason it’s common for pregnant women to suffer from hot flashes.)

Physical changes, especially the physical stretching of the skin, can contribute to your itchy skin. Since the skin around your belly has to stretch and expand majorly (to accommodate the growth of your baby and your 20-plus pounds of weight gain), it’s common for the skin on your abdomen to itch. Your breasts can grow and expand, too, and this can make you have itchiness on your breasts.

As your skin expands and stretches, make sure that you moisturize. Dry skin can intensify the itchiness. If you have eczema or food allergies, these things can also contribute to itchy skin pregnancy.

How to Get Relief from Pregnancy Itching

When your skin itches, you have a natural need to want to scratch it. But resist the urge – don’t scratch. When you scratch the itchy spots, this will only irritate your skin and make the problem worse. Why not moisturize whenever you start to itch? Use a gentle moisturizer in any itchy location. Apply the lotion liberally and just rub it in a circular motion. This will temporarily give you some relief from your pregnancy itchiness.

In really difficult situations, when your itchiness is out of control and moisturizing does nothing for you, try an anti-itch cream or lotion. Calamine may just be the ticket.

Don’t take any hot showers or baths if you’re itching. Hot water can dry out your skin, and make your itchiness even worse. When bathing, make sure that you use mild soap and moisturize immediately. Unscented moisturizer is best, since scented lotions can sometimes irritate some women’s skin.

Oatmeal baths give some women relief. You can find oatmeal bath products at your local drugstore or pharmacy.

When is Itchiness in Pregnancy a Sign of a Complication?

Itchiness in pregnancy is normal, but if you have excessive itchiness or you start noticing that you have a rash, this may be a sign of a problem. You should talk to your doctor about any extreme itchiness or rashes that you’re noticing.

Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is a condition that affects up to one percent of pregnant women. PUPPP causes you to have itchy, red bumps and hive-like rashes on your belly. This pregnancy complication typically strikes in the third trimester, and it affects mostly women carrying twins and multiples. PUPPP is harmless, but it can make you itchy like crazy, so it’s not a comfortable experience.

Sometimes, extreme itchiness is due to a skin problem called prurigo of pregnancy. With prurigo, you will have tiny bumps on your skin that look like bug bites. It can make you quite itchy, and it’s very uncomfortable. Fortunately, it’s rare.

A serious problem that may cause you to itch in pregnancy is called pemphigoid gestationis. With this condition, you may break out in hives, and then your hives will transform into big blistering lesions. Although rare, pemphigoid gestationis has been linked to preterm delivery and causing fetal growth problems.

In the second and third trimester, severe itchiness can be a sign that you have a liver problem called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. This is a serious condition that needs to be treated.

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