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Causes of Itchy Skin During Pregnancy

Causes of Itchy Skin During Pregnancy Causes of Itchy Skin During Pregnancy Causes of Itchy Skin During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of many changes for women, including skin changes. Some women may develop acne or experience an reduction in blemishes during pregnancy. Most women gain at least some weight during the pregnancy. This is just one of the causes of skin changes a pregnant woman may notice. The March of Dimes reports that itchy skin is a common complaint during pregnancy. Treatment options depend on the cause of the itching, which usually resolves itself once the baby is delivered.

General Rashes

Any number of rashes can develop during pregnancy. Some are harmless, itchy red bumps that appear on the belly, says the March of Dimes. Some women sweat more during pregnancy because hormones impact the sweat glands. This can increase the likelihood of developing rashes, such as a heat rash. A rash accompanied by any other symptoms, such as wheezing, can be a sign of an allergic reaction and should be treated by a medical professional immediately.

High Estrogen Levels

Estrogen levels increase during pregnancy, which can lead to the palms becoming red and itchy. Sometimes this can impact the soles of the feet as well. Estrogen levels return to normal soon after delivery, and the redness fades from the palms.


As the skin stretches as a result of the growing baby, it can lead to itching. The glands of the skin produce oils naturally to help maintain moisture. When the skin stretches during pregnancy, the oil production may not be adequate. The result is visible dryness, stretch marks and itching. Scratching dry skin can irritate it further. suggests using a thick body cream to soothe dry skin It is common for the skin surrounding the breasts to be dry from stretching as well.


One more uncomfortable rash associated with pregnancy is pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP). suggests that up to 1 percent of pregnant women experience this condition. It is characterized by itchy, red bumps and sometimes large patches of irritated skin on the belly. This condition occurs in the third trimester and is most common in women pregnant with twins or first babies. PUPPP can be extremely uncomfortable and spread to the thighs, arms and buttocks. It is harmless and can be treated with a topical ointment, usually consisting of a steroid. PUPPP usually resolves several days to several weeks after delivery.

Pemphigoid Gestationis

Pemphigoid gestationis, also called herpes gestationis, is a very rare skin condition that occurs during pregnancy. It is characterized by itchy lesions on the skin that appear first like hives and eventually appear as blisters. The blistering usually starts on the abdomen and spreads to the arms and/or legs. Pemphigoid gestationis is not associated with the herpes virus, but it is a more serious condition. It can be associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery and/or fetal growth problems. suggests it occurs in the second or third trimester most often but can appear at any time during pregnancy.

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy

Severe itching of the skin in the second or third trimester can be a sign of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. This liver problem impacts fewer than 1 percent of pregnant women in the United States. It occurs because the bile doesn't flow normally through the small ducts of the liver. This causes salts to accumulate on the surface of the skin, producing itching. Scratching the skin leads to redness and sometimes scratches, but the condition does not cause a visible rash.

Other Causes

Women who suffer from allergies, eczema and any other skin condition that causes itching may experience an exacerbation of symptoms during pregnancy. Treatment of such itching is usually the same as when a woman is not pregnant, with a few exceptions due to the safety of some medications that are not safe for use during pregnancy.

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