Itchy Skin in Pregnancy and How to Help It

Thursday, 31 March 2022

ALWAYS speak to your midwife or health care provider about your itchiness before attempting any self-care regimes.  It’s always best to be cautious and get professional advice.

Pregnancy may be the ultimate ‘everyday miracle’, but it’s also hard going for lots of women. Many of us experience a variety of physical discomforts, none more irritating than itching skin.

Reassuringly, itchy skin in pregnancy is very common and there are things you can do to ease it and help. 

pregnancy skin

Why Is My Skin Itchy During Pregnancy?

Hormones:

It’s all down to those pesky pregnancy hormones. Increased oestrogen can cause itchiness on the hands and the soles of the feet.

Your belly may also get itchy as it stretches to accommodate your baby-to-be.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you will get stretch marks (many women assume it does), but it can be annoying.

Certainly, from trimester two, many people find themselves struggling with trying not to scratch their growing bumps.  

Eczema:

Eczema flare ups are very common when pregnant, even for women who’ve never had it before. Symptoms include itching, rash, inflammation, and burning sensations.

Eczema that occurs during pregnancy is called atopic eruption of pregnancy (AEP).

It will usually be present around your knees, elbows, wrists, and neck. The condition will not affect your baby and typically resolves after delivery.

Psoriasis:

Interestingly, symptoms generally improve during pregnancy. Some women will continue to experience flare ups though.

When Should I Worry About Itching During Pregnancy?

It’s rare, but itching can be a symptom of a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known as obstetric cholestasis (OC).

The main symptom is itching without a rash.  The main symptoms according to the NHS are:

  • more noticeable itching on the hands and feet, but can be all over the body

  • worse at night

  • dark urine

  • pale poo

  • yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), but this is less common.

Symptoms can start around 8 weeks, but usually it begins at about 30 weeks.

Occasionally feeling slight itchiness is normal, but intense itching of the abdomen, arms, and legs can be a sign that your body needs some attention.  See your midwife as soon as you can.

The Suvarna Guide to At Home Help for Pregnancy Itching

DIY Oatmeal Bath

All causes of itching benefit from a super-soothing oatmeal bath. Blend together a scoop of oats, a tablespoon of baking powder and if you aren’t allergic or vegan, a scoop of milk powder in a food processor. You can just pour a scoop into your bath from here.

Alternatively, to avoid mess, you can just scoop porridge oats into a cotton sock, tie the top tightly then use it to squeeze water over yourself in the tub. It’s such a healing feeling, and works brilliantly for chicken pox too.

Make sure your bath is lukewarm, not hot. Hot water dries the skin even further and will make the issue worse, as well as being bad for blood pressure.

Shower Sensibly

Again, watch the shower temperature, and check the ingredients on your shower gel and bath soaks. If any have dimethicone, silicone, parabens or sulphates, give them a wide berth if you’re itching. 

Those ingredients are harsh on the skin and best avoided if you’re experiencing sensitivity.

A PH balanced soap bar or Natural BodyWash is a good alternative. You don’t have to go fragrance free necessarily, but check there’s no artificial fragrance, just essential oils.

Balms

Dry, stretching skin needs a rich, unctuous balm to soothe it, however, when pregnant it’s best to choose something natural.

Odylique’s ‘Ultra Rich Balm’ is legendary for offering rich hydration, and calming properties for irritated skin.

For day-to-day use, a natural body butter that has no artificial fragrances or ingredients like lanolin is a good choice to keep the itching at bay.

Repair Creams

A repair lotion is a mix of soothing ingredients like aloe vera, coupled with healing ingredients like tea tree, that can offer calm for patches of itching.

It doesn’t need to be used all over, but will work brilliantly for specific areas.

Curate your Clothing

Until very late in pregnancy, you don’t need to buy tonnes of maternity clothing that you just won’t wear.  Instead, consider switching to loose cotton clothes. If it’s winter, avoid harsh knits and stick to softer fabrics. 

Avoid anything that chafes, and lycra that your skin will struggle to ‘breathe’ through.

Wash your clothes in non-biological detergents or consider soap nuts and avoid fabric conditioner.  White vinegar with a couple of drops of essential oil does the same job with much less skin irritation.

You may enjoy our other pregnancy content here >

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