Itchy Skin During Pregnancy
Another symptom you may find yourself experiencing when you’re pregnant is itchy skin. Although in most cases it will be harmless and merely a temporary discomfort, there are times when it could signify something else.
Getting through the day when your skin feels itchy from morning to night, and you just can’t help but scratch, can be tiresome. It may not offer much relief, but about 20% of pregnant women suffer from some degree of itchy skin while they’re pregnant. The main causes are the changing hormones your body is experiencing and the stretching of your skin, especially over your growing stomach. The good news is that, although it’s uncomfortable, it should only last for the duration of your pregnancy – or if you’re lucky, only intermittently – and your skin will cease to be itchy once you’ve had your baby.
About two thirds of women also get red and itchy hands and feet and this is believed to be caused by an increase in oestrogen. Again, it usually clears up quickly after you’ve given birth.
If you’re experiencing intense itching around your vagina, then the fungal infection thrush may be to blame. It will need treatment – creams or pessaries – and you can either see your doctor or buy the treatment from a pharmacy. If you’ve got lots of itching around your anus, then this could be due to haemorrhoids or piles – again, see your doctor or speak to a pharmacist for advice.
Gaining Relief from ItchingThere’s nothing worse than feeling itchy (and others around you may agree, as it’s easy to passively pick up itchy feelings!), but other than scratching, there are some ways that you may gain relief.
Itching can be made worse by hot weather, so if you’re in a warm environment or it’s really hot outside, try to wear loose cotton clothing (see our article What To Wear During Pregnancy). It’s also worth avoiding going outside in the heat, especially around midday when it can be particularly hot. Getting equipped with a portable fan can help you stay cool and some people benefit from putting wet wipes on the affected areas of skin to help you cool down even more.
As your skin can become even more sensitive than normal during pregnancy, it may be worth investing in a gentle moisturiser. Look for products with soothing ingredients, such as calamine, aloe vera or tea tree oil. You could also try dabbing calamine lotion onto itchy skin and, for an ultra cooling effect, keep the bottle in the fridge so it’s nicely chilled.
Temporarily avoiding your usual scented bath products and soap may help, as can washing in cool water. Some people find that putting half a cup of bicarbonate of soda in their bath water helps reduce itchiness.
Obstetric CholestasisIn rare cases, severe itchiness in the third trimester could signify a condition called obstetric cholestasis. This is a serious liver disease and the itchiness will be widespread and severe, often involving very itchy hands and feet. It’s also often accompanied by other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, jaundice, vomiting, Nausea and pale-coloured stools.
It’s essential to see a doctor and a blood test will be done to assess your liver function. If your liver does turn out to be affected, then you’ll be prescribed medication. In some cases, it may be necessary for your baby to be delivered early.
Most incidences of itching are harmless and just down to the strange symptoms you pick up during pregnancy, but if you’re unsure about anything, speak to your doctor or midwife. After all, they’re there to help you and put your mind at rest.