Itching During Pregnancy - What to Expect, Causes, Treatment

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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Arti Sharma
Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 30 September 2023| min read
Itching During Pregnancy - What to Expect, Causes, Treatment

Quick Summary

  • Itching during pregnancy is a common complaint
  • Mild itching is considered normal, but excessive or persistent itching can be a cause for concern
  • It is important to know the potential causes and symptoms of body itching during pregnancy and seek medical advice if necessary

Itching during pregnancy is a common complaint among expectant mothers. While mild itching is considered normal, excessive or persistent itching can be a cause for concern. It can be uncomfortable and distressing, but it can also indicate an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. It is important to know the potential causes and symptoms of body itching during pregnancy and seek medical advice if necessary.

This article will focus on itching in pregnancy, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. We will also explore potential complications and prevention strategies. If you are experiencing itching during pregnancy, it is important to understand what to expect and when to seek medical attention.

With that in mind, let’s delve deeper into itching during pregnancy and learn more about what to expect.

What is itching during pregnancy?

There are several types of itching during pregnancy, including full-body itching during pregnancy, which is also known as pruritus gravidarum. This type of itching can occur anytime during pregnancy and can be particularly uncomfortable for expectant mothers.

Itching during pregnancy can also be localised, affecting a specific body area, such as the abdomen, breasts, or thighs. This type of itching is usually due to the skin stretching as the baby grows. Regardless of its type, it can be distressing for expectant mothers. It is important to understand what causes itching in pregnancy and when to seek medical attention.

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Causes of itching during pregnancy

Itching during pregnancy is a common symptom that affects many women. There are several potential causes of itching during pregnancy, including:

  1. Hormonal changes
    1. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause a variety of symptoms, including itching. Fluctuations in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone can affect the skin’s moisture balance, leading to dryness and itching.
    2. Additionally, hormonal changes can cause changes in blood flow, which may contribute to itching.
  2. Stretching skin
    1. As the uterus expands during pregnancy, the skin on the abdomen and breasts may stretch, leading to itching.
    2. This type of itching is usually localised to the affected area and tends to improve as the skin adjusts to the changes.
  3. Liver and kidney issues
    1. Sometimes, itching during pregnancy may indicate an underlying liver or kidney issue. Cholestasis of pregnancy, a liver disorder that impairs bile flow, is a common cause of itching in the third trimester.
    2. Kidney problems like chronic kidney disease or urinary tract infections can also cause itching.
  4. Itchy rashes or bumps
    1. Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP) is an itchy rash that develops around stretch marks during late pregnancy. Crusty, itchy bumps, called Prurigo, can also cause itching during pregnancy on the abdomen, arms, and legs in any trimester. 
  5. Allergies
    1. Pregnancy can make some women susceptible to allergies, which can cause itching. Allergies to foods, medications, or environmental triggers may lead to skin irritation and itching.
  6. Infections
    1. Infections, such as yeast infections or sexually transmitted infections, can also cause body itching during pregnancy. These infections can cause irritation and inflammation in the genital area, leading to itching and discomfort.

Symptoms of itching during pregnancy

Itching during pregnancy is a common symptom, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. It can manifest in several ways. Here are some common symptoms:

  1. Itching on the abdomen, breasts, thighs, or other areas of the body
  2. Redness and inflammation around the affected area
  3. Dry, flaky skin
  4. Rash or hives
  5. Bumps or blisters
  6. Darkened skin in the affected area
  7. Intense itching that interferes with daily activities or sleep
  8. Itching that is worse at night

Prevention of itching during pregnancy

There are several ways to prevent or manage itching during pregnancy. Here are some effective strategies:

  1. Diet and nutrition
    1. Eating a balanced diet with essential vitamins and minerals can help prevent itching during pregnancy. Foods with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and protect the skin.
    2. Therefore, your diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. You should also drink plenty of water and other fluid to stay hydrated.  
  2. Skincare routine
    1. A good skincare routine can help to prevent and manage itching during pregnancy. Choose gentle, fragrance-free products that are designed for sensitive skin.
    2. Avoid using hot water, which can exacerbate dryness and itching. Instead, opt for lukewarm water and mild soap. Be sure to moisturise regularly to keep your skin hydrated.
  3. Regular exercise
    1. Regular exercise can help reduce stress, improve circulation, and promote healthy skin.
    2. Choose low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga. Consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine during pregnancy.
  4. Avoiding triggers
    1. Certain triggers can exacerbate itching during pregnancy. These may include exposure to heat, hot water, or harsh chemicals.
    2. Be sure to avoid these triggers as much as possible. You may also want to avoid tight-fitting clothing, which can irritate the skin.

By following these strategies, you can reduce your risk of experiencing itching during pregnancy and manage any symptoms that do occur. If you experience persistent or severe itching, speak with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment of itching during pregnancy

If you are experiencing itching during pregnancy, several treatment options are available to help alleviate your symptoms. Itching in pregnancy treatment may include home remedies, medications, lifestyle changes, and medical procedures. Some of the most effective options include:

Home remedies

Several home remedies can help alleviate itching during pregnancy. These may include:

  1. Applying a cool compress to the affected itchy area
  2. Taking a cool bath with oatmeal or baking soda
  3. Using a humidifier or a fan to keep the air moist and cool
  4. Applying aloe vera gel or calamine lotion to the skin
  5. Avoiding scratching, which can worsen itching and cause damage to the skin

Lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle changes can also help alleviate itching during pregnancy. These may include:

  1. Wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing
  2. Avoiding exposure to heat, which can exacerbate itching
  3. Keeping your skin hydrated by moisturising regularly
  4. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation

Medications

  1. In some cases, medications may be necessary to alleviate itching during pregnancy.
  2. The healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications, such as antihistamines, corticosteroid creams, or topical numbing agents.
  3. You must consult a healthcare provider before taking any medications during pregnancy, as some may be harmful to your baby.

Medical procedures

In rare cases, medical procedures may be necessary to alleviate itching during pregnancy. These may include:

  1. Blood tests to check for liver function and other potential underlying causes of itching
  2. Delivery of the baby, in cases where the itching is severe or persistent and poses a risk to the health of the mother or baby
  3. Treatment for an underlying medical condition, such as cholestasis or eczema

Itching during pregnancy can be uncomfortable, but it is usually not a cause for concern. By following these treatment options, you can alleviate your symptoms and protect the health of you and your baby. 

When to consult a doctor?

If you experience itching during pregnancy, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help identify the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment options to alleviate your itching. You should get immediate medical attention if you experience the signs and symptoms of conditions such as cholestasis, PUPPP, or Prurigo.

Signs of Cholestasis

  1. Intense itching, including itching in the feet
  2. Jaundice
  3. Nausea
  4. Dark urine
  5. Light stool
  6. Lack of appetite
  7. Depression

Signs of PUPPP

  1. Scattered itchy bumps or rashes on or near the stretch marks on the belly
  2. Blisters around the rash
  3. Itching that becomes worse at night

Signs of Prurigo

  1. Itchy, crusty bumps on the abdomen, arms, or legs

Takeaway

Itching during pregnancy is a common symptom that affects many women. While it can be uncomfortable, it is usually not a cause for concern. However, in some cases, itching may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention. The causes of body itching during pregnancy can vary, including hormonal changes, stretching skin, liver and kidney issues, allergies, and infections.

Several ways to manage and alleviate itching in pregnancy include home remedies, medications, lifestyle changes, and medical procedures. Prevention strategies, like a healthy diet and skincare routine, regular exercise, and avoiding triggers, can also help reduce the likelihood of itching.

Whether you experience itching in early pregnancy or during the 9th month, it is important to consult a doctor to manage and treat your discomfort effectively. The team at HexaHealth can help you manage the symptoms and determine if further treatment is required. Get in touch with an expert at HexaHealth TODAY!

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, itching in pregnancy is normal. It is especially common around the belly and breasts as the mother’s skin stretches to accommodate the baby’s growth. Mild itching is usually not a cause of concern. However, if the itching becomes severe, it may indicate a serious liver condition, obstetric cholestasis, needing medical attention.
Mild body itching during pregnancy is a fairly common symptom that pregnant women experience due to the stretching of their skin. The condition affects almost a quarter (25%) of all pregnant women.

Itching is usually common during early pregnancy. However, certain types of rash only appear later in pregnancy and may not resolve until the baby is born. But once the baby arrives, itching usually goes away within a few days. 

There are many reasons why you may experience body itching during pregnancy. These causes include dryness, stretching skin, hormonal changes, perfumes or fabrics, cholestasis (a liver disorder), allergies, and infections.
Some women experience random food cravings during pregnancy, while others may complain of food allergies. Even though you may not be allergic to any food before pregnancy, your body may develop a food allergy during pregnancy without any apparent cause. Some common food allergens during pregnancy include eggs, cow’s milk, raw fish, soybean, sesame seeds, groundnuts, corn, etc. Food allergies may cause discomfort and itching in pregnancy.
Yes, excess sugar can cause itchy skin. High blood sugar levels for an extended period can lead to itchy skin. When you have too much sugar in the blood, your body will try to eliminate it by pulling fluid from the cells to make more urine. This can make your skin dry or dehydrated, leading to itching.

 Management and treatment for itching in pregnancy include options like:

  1. Home remedies (cool compress, cool baths with oatmeal or baking soda, using a humidifier, and aloe vera gel or calamine lotion)
  2. Lifestyle changes (wearing loose-fitting clothes, avoiding exposure to heat, keeping the skin hydrated, and managing stress)
  3. Medications (antihistamines, corticosteroid creams, or topical numbing agents)
  4. Medical procedures (delivering the baby in cases with severe itching that poses a risk to the mother or baby or treatment of underlying medical conditions)
There are several home remedies to treat itching in the whole body during pregnancy. These remedies include using chemical-free perfumes and detergents, wearing loose clothes from natural fabrics, taking a cool bath with oatmeal, using a moisturiser to hydrate the skin, applying calamine lotion, increasing water intake, and turning on a humidifier or fan to keep the air moist and cool.
Itching in early pregnancy is common and can usually be treated with certain home remedies and lifestyle changes. Creams like calamine lotion are safe during pregnancy and can offer relief from itching.

Yes, full-body itching during pregnancy can be a sign of a liver disease called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP). It is a liver condition that occurs late in pregnancy.

Cholestasis triggers intense itching on different body parts, usually the hands and feet. The condition can make you uncomfortable and lead to worrisome complications. Therefore, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms of ICP. 

Some of the best methods to relieve itching during pregnancy include using a cold compress, a calamine lotion, aloe vera gel and coconut oil, and a cool bath with oatmeal.
To stop itching in the whole body during pregnancy, you can try home remedies, lifestyle changes, and medications. Creams like calamine lotion and over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, corticosteroid creams, and topical numbing agents can help relieve itching.

Itching during pregnancy can cause discomfort. But you can prevent itching with some simple preventive tips. These preventive strategies include eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals.

You should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You should use lukewarm water and gentle, fragrance-free products for your skincare routine. Other effective strategies include regular exercise and avoiding triggers, such as exposure to heat, hot water, or harsh chemicals.

 Itchy breasts in early pregnancy is a common condition that pregnant women experience. Itching in breasts during pregnancy is usually for the same reason as itching elsewhere, i.e., the stretching and expanding of skin.

Other reasons for itchy breasts in pregnancy include hormonal changes, pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), Prurigo of pregnancy, and intertrigo.

If you experience itching during pregnancy, you must talk to your healthcare provider. Seek medical attention if your itching is severe or persistent, you have other symptoms, such as fever or jaundice, or you notice changes in your skin, such as rash or blistering.
Causes of severe itching during pregnancy include dryness, hormonal changes, stretching skin, chemical perfumes or fabrics, and cholestasis. Itching can also be caused by certain itchy rashes and bumps like pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) and Prurigo.

As a pregnant woman, you may usually experience itching getting worse at night. Some common reasons for the same include:

  1. Dry skin: Your body loses moisture at night, making the skin dry and itchy.
  2. Hormonal changes: Your body produces more inflammation-reducing hormones during the day than at night. The fewer hormones at night can lead to itchy skin. 
  3. Body temperature: If you have a higher temperature at night, you may have itchy skin. 

Severe itching should not be ignored, especially itching during pregnancy in the 9th month. If left untreated, severe itching can lead to a serious liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP).

Furthermore, ICP can increase the risk of complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Complications of ICP for the baby may include preterm birth, lung problems, or stillbirth.

Updated on : 30 September 2023

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.

Reviewer

Dr. Arti Sharma

Dr. Arti Sharma

MBBS, DNB Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Diploma In Cosmetic Gynaecology

8 Years Experience

Dr Arti Sharma is a well-known Obstetrician and Cosmetic Gynaecologist currently associated with Aesthetica Veda in Bengaluru. She has 8 years of experience in Obstetrics and Cosmetic Gynaecology and worked as an expert Obstetrician...View More

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