What Is Itchy Skin?
Itchy skin is an uncomfortable and irritating sensation that makes you feel like scratching your skin. Itchy skin may occur because of internal illnesses and skin conditions.
Some women have itchy skin during pregnancy. Itchy skin can occur on the arms, breasts, abdomen, or thighs.
Dry, itchy skin during pregnancy is very common and there are many causes, for example – an increase in the levels of certain hormones in the body or diseases that are related to being pregnant. Sometimes, the cause may be a preexisting condition such as eczema that gets worse in pregnancy.
Itchy skin during pregnancy at night may disrupt the sleep and make it challenging to have a full night’s good sleep.
Though the itchiness of the skin is quite a pain during pregnancy, there are certain natural remedies beneficial in soothing the irritating feeling and providing good relief.
What Causes Itching During Pregnancy?
There are many causes that make the skin itchy during pregnancy. These include;
1. Stretching Skin
The skin on the abdomen stretches as the pregnancy progresses, especially with the first pregnancy and pregnancies with multiples. This stretching in turn stretches nerve endings that trigger itchiness.
Changes in hormone levels or the immune system during pregnancy can make the skin lose its natural oils, making it dry. This usually causes flaky, itchy, dry skin.
3. Perfumes or Fabrics
Fragrance ingredients in perfumes can irritate the skin and the clothes can make the itchiness worse by constantly rubbing against the itchy patches.
The hormonal changes, especially an increased level of estrogen causes itchiness on the hands and the soles of the feet.
Cholestasis is a liver disorder that can occur during pregnancy with itching as the major symptom. The accumulation of bile acids in the blood is responsible for the feelings of itchiness.
6. Pruritic Urticarial Papules And Plaques Of Pregnancy (PUPPP)
PUPPP is an itchy rash around the stretch marks of the abdomen that start in the third trimester.
Causes small, crusty, itchy bumps on the skin. Prurigo can occur in the arms, legs, or abdomen and can be seen in any trimester.
[Also Read: Causes of stress rash on skin]
Itchy skin mostly occurs on the abdomen and breasts because of the many changes that the skin undergoes during pregnancy in these two sensitive areas.
Occasional itchiness of the abdomen, arms, and legs can be considered normal, but intense itching may need medical attention. Some women may have vaginal itching during pregnancy or rashes associated with pregnancy itching that may require treatment.
Itching cannot be considered a symptom of early pregnancy, and many types of rashes usually occur later in pregnancy and may go away only after the baby is born.
How To Cure Itchy Skin During Pregnancy?
Itchy skin cannot be prevented completely. But there are several natural ways to help relieve the itchiness. But if the natural remedies do not ease the itchy skin, one must consult a doctor to diagnose the problem and recommend the suitable treatment.
- Treatment Of PUPPP– Oral antihistamines and topical steroids are prescribed; sometimes oral steroids may be required
- Treatment Of Prurigo– Moisturizers, topical steroids, and oral antihistamines may be prescribed
- There may be an underlying condition causing itchiness that requires monitoring your condition, for example – cholestasis of pregnancy
Itchy Skin During Pregnancy Home Remedies
There are several home remedies to help ease the itchiness during pregnancy. These include;
1. Cold Compress
Applying cold compresses using a cool wet cloth or an ice pack on the itchy areas for five to 10 minutes, or till the itch fades away.
Applying a moisturizer (fragrance-free lotion or cream) after a shower or a bath will help relieve itching. Consider keeping lotion or cream in the fridge as applying when cold has a soothing effect on the skin. A belly balm or vitamin E oil also helps moisturize the skin.
3. lukewarm Showers And Baths
Take lukewarm showers and baths as hot water can further dry out the skin, making itchy skin worse. Also, consider using fragrance-free soap and ensure to rinse well and towel dry gently.
4. Stay Cool
As heat can make the itchy skin worse, try to avoid going out when sunny
5. Wear Comfortable Clothing
Consider wearing loose and smooth cotton clothes to prevent your skin from getting irritated.
6. Apply Topical Medication Before Using A Moisturizer
If your doctor prescribes a topical medication, apply it before using the moisturizer to the body, even on the areas treated with medication.
6. Decrease Stress
Try to reduce stress and anxiety as it causes chemical responses that make itchy skin worse.
7. Calamine Lotion
Apply calamine lotion twice a day on the itchy areas of the skin. This lotion reduces itchiness and prevents further irritation or inflammation.
8. Warm Oatmeal Bath
Using oatmeal during a bath can provide good relief to the itchy skin because of its soothing properties.
9. Increase Water Intake
Make sure to keep your skin hydrated. Drink plenty of water and consider including electrolytes or coconut water.
10. Using A Humidifier And/or A Fan
A humidifier or a fan helps to keep the air moist and cool that will help prevent the skin from drying out.
11. Coconut Oil
Apply coconut oil on the area of the skin affected and massage gently for a few minutes until the oil is completely absorbed by the skin. Coconut oil penetrates the skin and helps relieve itchiness and inflammation.
It is very important to avoid scratching, as scratching can irritate the skin further and may also increase the risk of skin infections.
When To See A Doctor
See a doctor for itchy skin during pregnancy if;
- You must make an appointment with the doctor if you develop a new rash during pregnancy
- Your skin condition is getting worse
- You have intense itchiness without a rash
- You have itching accompanied with nausea
- You develop any of the symptoms of cholestasis, PUPPP, and prurigo
Severe itchiness without a rash can indicate cholestasis of pregnancy.
Although itchy rashes are common, they are uncomfortable and harmless. But very rarely, this can be a symptom of a serious condition known as pemphigoid gestationis.
Itchy skin during pregnancy may be irritating, but as soon as the baby arrives, the itching will subside.
Vasavi Attada specializes in creating content for Medical/healthcare domain. She has written articles for Indian Health Organization (IHO), American Diabetes Association, and for magazines such as India Today and Dignity Dialogue.
Vasavi Attada holds a Master’s degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University.