Table Of Contents:
- Is It normal to have an itchy belly during pregnancy?
- When can you have itching around the belly area?
- What causes the belly to itch during pregnancy?
- Is itching during pregnancy dangerous?
- Home remedies for itchy belly during pregnancy
- Over-the-counter products for itchy belly
- How prevent itchy belly during pregnancy
Imagine scratching your belly all the time. Whether you are at home, at work, in a meeting or in a party, one hand is always busy at it on your stomach. It could seem weird to the onlookers, but only a pregnant woman can understand how difficult it is to control the urge to scratch an itching belly during pregnancy. While you may get temporary relief when you scratch, the big question is if you should scratch or not scratch. MomJunction helps you find an answer to this question and provides solutions to effectively tackle an itchy belly during pregnancy.
Is It Normal to have an Itchy Belly During Pregnancy?
Yes, it is quite normal for the growing belly to be itchy due to the stretching skin. In some cases, your breasts, palms, and soles turn itchy too. This is due to the hormonal changes and skin conditions that develop with progressing pregnancy (1). If the itching gets serious, you should immediately consult your healthcare practitioner.
When Can You Have Itching Around The Belly Area?
An itchy belly mostly occurs in the second trimester i.e., between 13 and 28 weeks (2). But it could occur in the first or third trimester as well. Itching is more prominent in case of twin pregnancy, as the skin may stretch more than it does in a regular pregnancy.
What Causes The Belly To Itch During Pregnancy?
Mild itching is common and is not a concern. It usually happens due to reasons: (3):
Expanding belly: Most often, itchy belly develops due to the growing uterus. The skin expands and stretches, becomes moisture deprived, dries out, and feels itchy. Treating the dryness would solve the problem.
Is Itching During Pregnancy Dangerous?
Sometimes, an itchy belly can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Along with severe itching, rashes may develop.
1. Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPS):
- PUPPS is a condition characterized by itchy red bumps on pregnant belly and large patches of hive like rashes.
- Nearly 1% of pregnant women develop this condition, which is also called polymorphic eruption of pregnancy.
- They could occur in the third trimester or the last five weeks of pregnancy, and sometimes appear after delivery (4).
- The cause of PUPPS is unknown, and women carrying twins or more, and those carrying their first baby are more susceptible to it.
- Sometimes, PUPPS can spread out to other parts of your body such as thighs, buttocks, back, arms, and legs. They could rarely spread to your face, neck, and hands.
- Your doctor will typically prescribe a topical ointment.
- If the intensity of the condition is high, antihistamine or oral steroids are recommended.
- PUPPS is harmless to the unborn baby and disappears after delivery.
- It rarely occurs in successive pregnancies (5).
[ Read: PUPPP During Pregnancy ]
2. Prurigo and pregnancy:
- If you notice small eruptions that start off as bug bites (and change into cuts as you scratch), you may be suffering from a severe itchy condition called prurigo.
- It is also known as popular eruptions of pregnancy, occurring on stomach, limbs or torso, and develop in the late second or early third trimesters.
- Treatment includes topical ointments and antihistamines as in PUPPS, and oral steroids in severe cases.
- Prurigo is harmless to your baby and disappears soon after delivery. In some cases, it could stay up to three months post delivery.
- They can occur in successive pregnancies (6).
3. Pemphigoid gestationis:
- Pemphigoid gestationis is an extreme skin condition where itchy eruptions begin as hives and turn into large sized blisters or lesions.
- It is also known as herpes gestationis due to its virus-like appearance.
- These most likely appear in the second or third trimesters, and even one to two weeks after delivery.
- It starts near the belly button and spreads to the trunk, arms, legs, palms, and soles.Oral steroids are prescribed for treatment. Pemphigoid gestationis that flares up after delivery is said to reduce with breastfeeding.
- This condition is more serious than PUPPS and is known to trigger pre-term labor, fetal growth problems, and even stillbirth. This means that you must check with a doctor as soon as you see the signs.
- In rare cases, a newborn may develop a rash that is usually mild and subsides in a few weeks. This condition can occur in successive pregnancies and could be more severe than in the earlier pregnancy (7).
4. Impetigo herpetiformis:
- Impetigo herpetiformis is not caused by herpes virus, but it is a skin infection and a form of psoriasis in pregnancy.
- It develops in the third trimester and is characterized by red patches filled with pus that slowly grow into larger pus-filled, white rashes.
- These patches may appear on your thighs, groin, belly, armpits, under the breasts, and other areas.Impetigo herpetiformis is associated with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and chills.
- This condition is treated with systemic corticosteroids and you will be under observation.
- It disappears after delivery and can recur in the successive pregnancies (8).
5. Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP):
- ICP is a severe condition that triggers massive itching. This is a rare condition and about 1% of pregnancy cases in the US have reported it.
- It develops in the third trimester and is a condition connected with liver where bile does not flow normally. Instead, bile salts accumulate in the skin, causing intense itch, rashes, and hives.
- You are likely to develop red rashes mostly on soles, palms, and stomach. Symptoms of ICP include nausea, malaise, and loss of appetite.
- ICP is extremely dangerous and can lead to stillbirth (9).
[Read: Commom Pregnancy Problems ]
These conditions have similar signs. When you notice any skin issues, you must check with your doctor, who will recognize the exact problem and treat you accordingly.
When To Consult A Doctor?
Call your healthcare provider if you:
- Develop severe itch on the stomach and other body parts.
- Experience any itch not related to dry or sensitive skin.
- The itch spreads to all over the body.
- Have severe itching and rashes, which could be due to PUPP or ICP, in the third trimester.
- Develop itching accompanied by light colored bowel movements, dark colored urine, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Home Remedies For Itchy Belly During Pregnancy:
Here are some safe and natural remedies that you can try for itching, rashes, pain, and swelling.
1. Oatmeal bath for itchy skin:
Add a cup of oatmeal to warm water and bathe with it. It helps soothe the irritated skin and reduces itchiness (10). You could also tie nylon knee high socks, filled with steel cut oatmeal, to the tap. When you use the warm tap water that has run through those socks, it will provide relief and help you relax.
[ Read: Rashes That Occur During Pregnancy ]
2. Baking soda bath:
Pour half cup of baking soda in warm water, and soak in it for as long as you get relief. Prefer baking soda to baking powder as soda is more effective in relieving the itch and skin inflammation. You can also make a paste of baking soda and water, and apply on the tummy and other itchy areas (11).
3. Aloe vera gel:
Use aloe vera gel to all those itchy and irritated skin areas soon after a shower. It will soothe and reduce inflammation. The aloe vera gel layer will protect the skin and prevent from any damage when you tend to scratch on the stomach (12).
4. Cold compress:
Apply a cold compress on your tummy with a flannel or washcloth soaked in cold water to reduce the itchy sensation (13). You can also use it in addition to oatmeal or baking soda bath.
Dab a little moisturizer that is gentle and fragrance-free. Applying this frequently will temporarily relieve the itching.
6. Coconut oil:
Alison Canavan, a model-turned writer talks about the goodness of coconut oil in her book Minding Mum. Apply the oil on the itchy belly throughout your pregnancy to mitigate dryness and itchiness.
7. Apple cider vinegar:
You can put some apple cider vinegar on the itchy tummy as it works perfectly in relieving irritation and dryness.
Over-The-Counter Products For Itchy Belly:
1. Oil-based moisturizers:
The products are ideal for an itchy belly as they are easily absorbed into your skin. You can get them at any beauty aisle or drug store. If you want to add fragrance, put one or two drops of essential oils such as lavender or frankincense into the moisturizer. The calming scent will subside any swelling.
Some essential oils such as nutmeg, rosemary, jasmine, basil, rose, clary sage, and juniper are not recommended during pregnancy.
2. Calamine lotion:
Apply small amounts of calamine on the itchy stomach several times in a day. Calamine contains zinc carbonate, zinc, and iron oxides which help relieve itchy skin (14).
3. Vitamin E lotion:
You can prevent itching during pregnancy by applying vitamin E lotion or capsule oil, available at local drug stores. Use vitamin E in moderation as high amounts may increase the risk of heart issues in the baby (15).
How To Prevent Itchy Belly During Pregnancy:
While you can do nothing about the onset of itching, you can take measures either to reduce or prevent the itchiness from aggravating. Adopt the following steps:
- Avoid hot water bath or showers as they can trigger itchiness. Instead, use warm water for bathing.
- Do not use strong smelling soaps and gels as they lead to dry skin. Use mild soap or shower gels that are gentle on the skin.
- Wear loose clothing that is clean and dry. Tight and wet clothes will rub against the skin affecting the dryness and cause itchiness.
- Do not stay in the sun or hot weather as they can dry the skin, leading to itchiness. Also, the UV rays from the sun are known to aggravate the rashes on the dry skin.
- Moisturize your skin frequently and adequately. Use good moisturizers that have a neutral pH.
- Avoid being in the AC for long periods as that too can dry your skin and lead to itchiness and irritation.
- Drink enough water (about eight to ten glasses a day) as it hydrates your body and moisturizes your skin naturally.
The causes of an itchy belly during pregnancy are varied. Do not neglect any itch or rash. Talk to your doctor, and if she says it is nothing to be worried about then you may use some OTC lotions or home remedies for itching during pregnancy that the doctor recommends.
Have any tips to share on how to stop itching during pregnancy? Share them with us in the comment section.
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