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Rashes and itchy skin during pregnancy

Rashes and itchy skin during pregnancy


Heat rashes and itchy skin are a common complaint for many women during pregnancy. They are usually caused by an increase in the body's blood volume, as well as increased sweating and hormonal changes.

Rashes in pregnancy

Many women will develop a generalised 'pregnancy rash' all over their belly and different areas of their body. This can sometimes be referred to as 'PUPPS' (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy) and is annoying, but normal, and will go away after the baby is born. If the rash is severe and ongoing, you may need to see your caregiver to rule out other possible causes (such as scabies, eczema or a fungal infection).

Itchy skin in pregnancy

You may be more susceptible to itchy skin if your skin is dry (particularly in the winter months). As the pregnancy continues, the stretching and growing of your skin can aggravate itchy sensations.

NOTE: Persistent itching, particularly after 20 weeks of pregnancy may be a sign of your liver not functioning well. This is called cholestatic jaundice of pregnancy or 'cholestasis'. Cholestasis is diagnosed with blood tests (called 'liver function tests' and 'bile salts'). It is generally recommended that you have these tests done as a precaution, if you have constant itching during pregnancy. This is particularly so if you are itchy on your palms and/or the soles of your feet.

What some women find helpful for itchy skin

There are a few things that pregnant women find helpful when experiencing itchy skin.

Remedies and treatments may include:

  • Using oatmeal or water dispersible emollients in the bath or shower.
  • Using Sorbelene and glycerine creams instead of soap for cleansing. Soaps and perfumed skin products should ideally be avoided.
  • Wearing as little underwear as possible. Try cotton clothes instead of Lycra and synthetics. Sometimes rolling up a hand towel or washer (you may like to wet it) and placing it under your breasts to stop them rubbing on your belly can bring relief. Some women find changing laundry detergents to one with no dyes or perfumes can help.
  • Using Paw paw ointment or calendula cream. These are anti-itch, anti-infective agents (that are also very effective for baby's nappy rash after the birth!) Some women find chickweed ointment helpful as an alternative.
  • Trying good old calamine lotion if the itch becomes unbearable. (Although this may prevent you from having some much needed outings!) We know of one woman who was advised by her caregiver to use her Mylanta antacid liquid on her skin. She swore by it as being the most effective treatment she had tried! We live and learn.
  • If the itch is really unbearable, some caregivers will prescribe antihistamines or steroid creams (to be used very sparingly when in desperation). There is some research that shows small doses of aspirin can be affective but this can thin the blood and reduce its ability to clot well. You should only take aspirin during pregnancy if medically prescribed.
  • Some women notice they are much more sensitive to allergens during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. For example, a deodorant that you may have used quite frequently before you were pregnant (or breastfeeding) may now make your skin react with a rash. Many women find they are able to tolerate them again after the birth (or they wean their baby). In the mean time it may be just a case of finding a brand that does not cause a reaction (or doing without it for a while).

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