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Is it normal to have itching during pregnancy?
Yes, mild itching during pregnancy is normal in most cases. It's also common – about 20 percent of pregnant women have itchy skin. You may feel especially itchy around your belly and breasts as your skin stretches to accommodate their increased size. Dry skin and hormonal changes may also contribute.
Some itchy skin conditions, such as eczema, can get worse during pregnancy, though some women find that their eczema actually improves. However, with psoriasis it's the opposite: Many women report less severe symptoms during pregnancy, while only a few find that their psoriasis gets worse during pregnancy.
If you have an itchy rash or severely itchy palms or soles of your feet, call your healthcare provider because these are sometimes symptoms of more serious conditions that require medical care.
How can I get relief from itching during pregnancy?
Do your best not to scratch because it can irritate your skin further and increase the risk of skin infections. If you're itching because of dry, stretched skin, these simple measures can give you relief:
- Apply cold. Put an ice pack or a cool, wet compress on itchy areas for five to 10 minutes, or until the itch fades.
- Moisturize. Slather on fragrance-free lotion or cream after you take a shower or bath. Keep lotion in the fridge so that moisturizing your skin also feels cooling.
- Take an occasional warm oatmeal bath. You can buy commercially prepared oatmeal baths in drugstores.
How can I prevent itching during my pregnancy?
You may not be able to prevent itchy skin entirely, but these tips might minimize itching during pregnancy:
- Take lukewarm showers and baths. Hot water can dry out your skin and make the itching worse. Use mild, fragrance-free soap, and rinse it off well. Towel yourself dry gently.
- Stay cool. Avoid going out in the heat of the day because heat can make itching worse.
- Wear comfy clothing. Loose, smooth cotton clothing keeps your skin from getting irritated.
- Apply medicines before moisturizing. If your provider prescribes you a topical medication, apply it as instructed and then moisturize your whole body, even the areas of skin treated with medication.
- Lower your stress. Take steps to reduce your stress and anxiety, which can make itching worse.
When should I call my healthcare provider about itchy skin during pregnancy?
Call your provider if you:
- Develop a new rash during pregnancy
- Have a skin condition that's getting worse
- Feel very itchy but don't have a rash
Your provider will want to do a physical exam so she can diagnose the problem, recommend appropriate treatment, and refer you to a dermatologist if necessary.
This is especially important now because some conditions that cause itchy skin during pregnancy can affect your baby's well-being and require special monitoring or treatment. For example, severe itching without a rash can be a symptom of cholestasis of pregnancy.
And although an itchy rash during pregnancy is usually one of several uncomfortable but relatively harmless conditions, it also can be a symptom of a rare but serious condition called pemphigoid gestationis.