Itching during Pregnancy

Examining PUPPP's and Interhepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy

“My hands itch. My feet itch. Even my hair even itches.”

Doctors frequently hear these words from pregnant women. Itching in pregnancy is very common. Many pregnant women stress out, wondering if itching is normal or a sign of danger for the baby.

Most itching in pregnancy is normal and harmless.

During pregnancy your expanding belly stretches the skin and triggers dryness and irritation. Although annoying, this itching is common and only harmful in certain instances .

Here are some tips to help calm the itch

  • Don’t scratch! Possibly the worst advice to give someone who is itching. It is tempting, but scratching will irritate the skin even more.
  • Wear loose clothing — natural fabrics like cotton are preferable and try and keep cool. Heat and sweating will aggravate the itch.
  • Moisturize often. Use fragrance-free and colorless lotions/balms/butter. Organic certified products are less likely to irritate your skin.
  • Take a bath. Use cool water, or take an oatmeal bath. Don’t overdo though as water can also dry out your skin.
  • Sooth. Calamine lotion and Vitamin E oil can be very soothing.Organic coconut butter ot oil will also offer some relief.
  • Consider a humidifier. This can keep the skin from drying out.
  • If you’ve broken patches of skin from scratching, talk to your doctor about a medicated cream to avoid infection.

Not all itching can be ascribed to an annoying side effect of pregnancy and on occasion will be an indicator of a more serious underlying medical condition. If you have any concerns, please raise these with your doctor. Some Medical conditions in pregnancy that present with itchiness are listed below.

PUPPPs (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy)?

PUPPPs is a common pregnancy rash that causes itchy red patches that appear around stretch marks. The rash can spread to the thighs, legs, and arms. PUPPPs typically occurs toward the end of pregnancy when the enlarging abdomen is stretching the skin. This frustrating condition is not harmful to your baby. It will resolve almost immediately after giving birth. Topical steroid cream may provide some relief.

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy

Cholestasis of pregnancy is a serious and often overlooked complication of pregnancy. This liver condition results from chemicals called bile acids. Bile acids usually flow from your liver to your digestive system. In cholestasis, they build up in the body and deposit under the skin. These deposits lead to severe itching.

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy usually becomes apparent in the third trimester of pregnancy. Bile flow returns to normal after delivery of the baby, and the signs and symptoms of the condition disappear. However, they can return during later pregnancies.

Women with this cholestasis typically complain of unrelenting, total body itching as cholestasis is not contained to one area of the body. The miserable itching tends to be worse at night and can cause difficulty sleeping. Your Obgyn will monitor the pregnancy closely as cholestasis is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.

A medication called Ursodiol may be prescribed to decrease bile acid levels and relieve the symptoms. This medication does not reduce the overall risk to the pregnancy. Delivery is usually recommended prior to the due date to keep the mom and baby safe.

This article was contributed by MacArthur Medical Center’s Dr. Andrea Arguello

Originally published at on February 4, 2020.


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

Dr Jeff Livingston
Dr Jeff Livingston
Jeff is Co-Founder of Medika Life. He is a Board Certified Obgyn and CEO of MacArthur Medical Center in Irving, Texas. He is a nationally recognized thought leader, speaker, writer, blogger, and practicing physician who is considered an expert in the use of social media to educate patients, using new and innovative technology to improve care outcomes and the patient experience.


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