Pregnancy is a time of happiness and joy. But as your belly grows with the growing baby, you may experience several discomforts. Amongst which, itching is the most common.
If you are going through itchy skin, do not worry, you are not alone. Mild irritation is not harmful, but if it becomes persistent, one should pay attention to the symptoms. In the later trimesters, chronic irritation may be the cause of an underlying medical condition.
Continuous itching during pregnancy may drive you insane. Concentrating on any task will be very difficult as you are trying your best to suppress the urge to scratch. Your clothes make it worse by constant rubbing against the itchy patches of your skin.
It is no fun to scratch all the time. So, let’s talk about the causes of itchiness during pregnancy, in-home treatments, and guidance on when to see your doctor.
Common Causes of Itching during Pregnancy
Pregnancy is amazing, yet it puts your body to different tests with every passing day. As your breasts and belly get bigger, the skin around the area stretches. This results in itching, redness, and the development of stretch marks.
Rubbing and scratching from clothes will further worsen the symptoms and may lead to rashes and irritated patches.
It is a common skin condition that speeds up the process of skin production. Due to this, a thick layer of red, itchy patches develops on the skin.
According to an article published in Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, it was concluded that mostly the symptoms reduce during pregnancy, but some women may experience the worsening of skin condition.
The first-line therapy for psoriasis during pregnancy includes topical corticosteroids and ultraviolet B phototherapy.
Eczema is the most common medical condition during pregnancy that causes red and itchy patches all over the skin. The inflamed patches are mostly seen around the knees, elbows, wrist, and neck. Eczema causes redness, inflammation, rashes, itching, and burning sensation. To know more about the symptoms, click here.
If it occurs for the first time in pregnancy, it is specifically termed as Atopic Eruption of Pregnancy (AEP).
However, keep yourself relaxed because eczema cannot be transferred to your baby, and the symptoms will reside on their own after the delivery.
The hormonal changes during child development influence everything from mood to blood circulation and cause itchiness too.
Some more common causes are as follows:
- Perfumes and Fabrics
Natural Treatments to Cure Itching During Pregnancy
Throughout the pregnancy, moisturizers play a vital role in maintaining the health of your skin. Despite all the hormonal changes, moisture helps retain the skin’s elasticity, thus securing its well-being.
Apply your favorite moisturizer daily twice or thrice to prepare your skin for the upcoming changes. Look for a product that hydrates the skin and makes you feel great with its essence and texture. Even if you don’t have itchiness, continue applying moisturizer from the very beginning of pregnancy till its end because prevention is always better than cure.
Make sure to maintain the moisture balance of your skin. This will help your body deal with the morning sickness, back pain, and fatigue – common discomforts of pregnancy.
Pamper Yourself with Oatmeal Bath
The best in-home treatment for itching is to add oatmeal to your warm bathwater. Oatmeal possesses anti-inflammatory properties, but it will also hydrate the skin and facilitate soothing.
For the most beneficial bath, use a coffee grinder or food blender to reduce the size of regular oats to colloidal oatmeal – super fine powder. The powder should be fine enough that it does not aggregate to the bottom of the tub.
For an effective oatmeal bath, you will need oats, baking soda, and milk powder. Blend all the ingredients in the food processor. Scoop some of the mixture into your bathtub and let it soak for at least 20 minutes.
After an oatmeal bath, you will feel sudden relief from severe itchiness.
Reminder: if you are willing to add essential oil to your oatmeal bath, don’t forget to check with your doctor first. Some of the essential oils are contraindicated in pregnant women. Your bath will be as effective without them.
Pat Your Skin Gently Rather than Rubbing
By being gentle throughout the pregnancy, you can prevent itchy skin in the best possible ways. During this period, the skin is delicate enough that any abrasive rubbing can cause micro-tears. The final result of which is irritation and dryness.
We advise you to gently pat your skin with a dry towel rather than the rough back and forth rubbing to remove excessive water. The plus point of patting is that it feels like a mini massage and can help you de-stress after a long hectic day.
Create a Baking Soda Paste
Looking for the best remedy to cure itchiness? Make a paste of baking soda and use it topically onto the inflamed patches of skin.
Baking soda paste works wonders by restoring the pH balance, which is much needed for healthy skin. The pH level is balanced because of the acid mantle, a thin protective shield on the skin’s surface. This layer provides a barrier against the bacteria and allergens along with maintaining the moisture balance.
Preparing baking soda paste is not a big deal. All you need to do is mix a couple of spoons of baking soda with water. Add the soda until the required consistency is achieved. Then apply it onto your skin for nearly 10 to 15 minutes. Next, rinse off with cold water and gently pat your skin with a dry towel. Be careful not to rub or scratch sensitive skin.
Bath with Warm Water Instead of Hot water
Warm water works great in removing the dust and contamination from the skin. But on the other hand, it is not good for the developing fetus. Also, it can severely dry your skin.
Practice showering with warm water once you get pregnant. Otherwise, hot water will raise your core temperature. That, in turn, elevates the heart rate and decreases the blood flow towards the fetus.
What is meant by warm water? The temperature that goes well with your body’s environment, i.e., 98°F, is advised for your skin and the fetus growing within you. Or in other words, decrease the temperature of your bathwater until no steam is generated.
You have the choice to add your desired nourishing bath oil for soft, glowy skin. Avail most of the bath by adding a home remedy, like an oatmeal bath, to relieve itchy skin.
Reminder: Be aware of the essential oils as they can make your bathtub slippery. Always be careful when getting in and out of the tub.
Cold Compression Therapy
Cold compress has a numbing effect, so it is the best remedy for the sudden relief of irritation during pregnancy. Apply a cold towel to the affected areas of the skin. Plus, it can also be used to treat painful swallowing caused by scratching.
For this, soak a clean towel or piece of cloth in cold water. Wring it out, place it onto the inflamed areas of the skin, and leave it for 5 minutes. You’ll observe the immediate numbing and cooling effects.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Consult your doctor if you observe any of the following:
Severe itching may be the underlying cause of a liver disease called cholestasis or Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP).
It is a liver disorder that occurs due to the accumulation of bile acids in the bloodstream. As a result, the skin develops a more yellow tone. Cholestasis usually occurs in the last trimester.
Your doctor will recommend you LFTs – liver function tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Signs of Cholestasis
- Dark color urine
- Loss of appetite
- Chronic itching
Talk to your doctor if you notice any of the above symptoms, as cholestasis increases the risk of stillbirth, fetal distress, and preterm delivery. He may prescribe earlier induction or frequent monitoring throughout the pregnancy.
The ultimate solution of cholestasis is baby birth, and then the itching will suppress on its own.
An additional underlying cause that can develop itchiness during pregnancy is Prurigo. It can occur at any time during pregnancy.
It is a skin disease that causes the development of hard nodules on the surface of the skin.
Symptoms of Prurigo
Small itchy bumps, especially on arms, legs, and abdomen (often mistaken as an insect bite).
Moisturizers may help to a certain extent in reducing the itch from prurigo. For typical treatment, your doctor may prescribe:
- Topical emollients
- Steroids in combination with oral antihistamines
For most women, itching in pregnancy is common. Follow the remedies mentioned above for quick relief. But in case of chronic itching, it’s important to consult with your doctor as it can represent an underlying medical condition.
After all, you would never want that continuous itch to distract you from experiencing the best time carrying a beautiful baby within you.