Keep Those Nails Away: Managing Itches During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a fantastic time, do not doubt that. The idea of growing a human inside your body is indeed a magical one. However, pregnancy comes with a few changes that can, like most changes, be uncomfortable. Some women experience skin sensitivity due to increased production of progesterone and estrogen, which can also make your skin sensitive to certain chemicals or fragrances. Pregnant women’s skin is also 20% thinner, resulting in even more sensitivity for some women. As if that wasn’t enough, many pregnant women lose sleep from heartburn and must endure hormones that cause weight gain and swelling of their feet. Itching during pregnancy is a significant discomfort that most pregnant women have to endure. There can be many causes for this insufferable itch to occur. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  1. Hormones – The hormonal changes you undergo during pregnancy can affect your mood, circulation, and everything in between, including itchiness.
  2. Dry Skin – A side effect of hormonal changes, your skin during pregnancy may dry up more than usual, resulting in dry and flaky skin that would itch from time to time.
  3. Stretching Skin – Your skin will inevitably stretch during pregnancy, especially in the midsection (surprise, surprise!) These stretch marks will definitely cause an itch.
  4. Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP) – This is an itchy rash that would develop on your stretch marks during the latter stages of your pregnancy.
  5. Cholestasis – This is a liver condition that causes the build-up of bile acids in the blood, which through circulation, would result in itchiness.
  6. Prurigo – These are crusty and itchy bumps that would appear on your legs, arms, and belly during any trimester.
  7. Perfume or Fabrics – Different chemicals that would come in contact with your skin through the fabrics you wear and the perfumes that you use could definitely cause an itch because your skin is extra sensitive during this period.  

Itches During Pregnancy

Let us now walk you through some common conditions that cause itches and help you understand how to tackle them.

The pregnancy hormone progesterone is probably to blame for the itchiness.

Progesterone is a pregnancy hormone. It’s responsible for creating breast milk and can cause the skin to develop stretch marks. Progesterone is also thought to be involved in the itching experienced by some pregnant women, though it’s not clear exactly how it causes this symptom.

Some women say that their skin feels rough or bumpy during pregnancy, possibly because of increased production of sebum (a natural oil) from their sebaceous glands. If you have ever used a moisturizer on your face, you know how important it is to keep your skin hydrated! If you notice that your hands are dry and cracked when pregnant, try applying lotion several times per day or consider using an emollient cream instead (they usually come with ingredients like glycerin).

Prurigo gestationis is a more severe form of itching occurring in about 1 in every 150 women.

Prurigo gestationis is a more severe form of itching occurring in about 1 in every 150 women. The condition presents as red or brown spots on the abdomen, chest, back, or arms. It usually appears during the second trimester and subsides after delivery.

It’s not clear what causes prurigo gestationis—some think it may be related to changes in hormone levels during pregnancy. But it’s believed to be more common among women who’ve had multiple pregnancies (especially those who’ve already delivered two or more children). For most people who develop this condition during pregnancy, symptoms generally subside within a few months after delivery; however, some cases can continue for years afterward.

The most common cause of itching is dry skin.

The most common cause of itching during pregnancy is dry skin. This can occur in the first trimester or later on in your pregnancy due to hormonal changes and increased blood volume. It’s extremely common to experience itching on the belly, breasts, and arms!

Like any other skin condition, itchiness during pregnancy can be frustrating and challenging to manage. But there are steps you can take to get relief while keeping the baby’s health in mind. To help you avoid scratching or irritating your skin further (which could lead to an infection), here are some tips for keeping itchy skin at bay:

Natural Remedies: 

Some of the most common ways to treat itchy skin during pregnancy are through diet, lifestyle choices, and moisturizing. Many women find relief by adjusting their diets or limiting chemicals that may irritate their skin. There are also several over-the-counter and home remedies that you can try. Here are some of them:

  1. Change your perfumes, deodorants, and detergents – Since your skin remains very sensitive during pregnancy, coming in contact with various chemicals will irritate your skin. Therefore, it is best to switch to organic products. To avoid chemically driven commercial products, you may also consider making your own soaps/ detergents/ perfumes, etc. A simple Google search could teach you how.
  2. Wear loose clothing made out of natural products – Once again, this will keep the chemicals away and keep you cool enough to avoid heat rashes.
  3. Take an oatmeal bath – Compliment this with a yogurt skin treatment and use pine tar soap to lather. This is an effective remedy for PUPPP.
  4. Moisturize regularly – Olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, and coconut butter are very effective.
  5. Apply Calamine lotion – It is not just for rashes; regular use would work wonders!
  6. Stay Hydrated – Along with water, you should also take steps to keep your electrolytes up. Coconut water is a good option.
  7. Turn on your humidifier and/or fan – Avoid heat-related rashes by keeping your house cool and moist.


Talk to your doctor or midwife if your itching doesn’t subside with moisturizing and other natural remedies.

Itching can signify cholestasis, a severe condition that requires medical attention.

If you have symptoms of cholestasis—which may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin)—you should get help immediately. If your itching is so severe that it interferes with your sleep and daily activities, see a doctor as well.

Cholestasis can cause severe complications in pregnancy, including preterm labour or birth and low birth weight babies if left untreated.

Itches During Pregnancy

If you might have cholestasis during your pregnancy talk to your obstetrician for further observation.

Cholestasis is a serious condition that becomes more common during late-stage pregnancy. If you do mention cholestasis during your pregnancy, your obstetrician will likely have you come in for blood work and may also offer a liver ultrasound to rule out this condition.

Cholestasis occurs when the bile ducts (which carry bile produced by the liver) become blocked or swollen, causing the bile to back up into the liver and form stones or sludge. This can lead to serious health problems, including jaundice, which causes yellowing of skin and eyes; pruritus (itching); dark urine; nausea; vomiting; pain in the upper right quadrant of abdomen/abdominal distention; fever; loss of appetite; abdominal swelling and tenderness.


Prurigo gestationis tends to begin at around 36 weeks and resolves within 2 months of giving birth, though it can recur with subsequent pregnancies.

However, because prurigo gestationis is related to a significantly increased risk of preterm birth and intrahepatic cholestasis, managing this condition while pregnant is critical.

In general, management of prurigo gestationis begins with finding the trigger that causes the itching. Once the trigger is identified, the patient can avoid it or use a treatment to reduce its effects on their body. In addition to avoiding triggers, anti-inflammatory medications may be taken as well as antihistamines and treatment for anxiety if needed (such as benzodiazepines). Other medicines such as low-dose corticosteroids are also commonly used to treat severe forms of allergic reactions like those associated with pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia.


There are no natural treatments for prurigo gestationis at this time, but if you’re considering using calamine lotion to relieve your itchiness, be sure that the product doesn’t contain an antihistamine.

Prurigo gestationis (PG) is a skin condition that affects pregnant women. It can be treated with medication, but there are no natural treatments at this time.

Calamine lotion is a common remedy for itching, but it may not be the right choice for prurigo gestationis. Some calamine lotions contain an antihistamine, which can exacerbate the symptoms of PG by making you drowsy or causing you to itch even more. Talk to your doctor if you think you have prurigo gestationis and ask about using calamine lotion on your skin during pregnancy.

Your skin is going through a lot during pregnancy. If you feel like it’s getting out of hand, talk to your doctor about it.

If you have any of the following symptoms, see a doctor for an examination:

  • Itching that is worse than what you usually experience. If it’s not better by your next visit, check in with them again.
  • A rash that doesn’t seem to go away and keeps spreading across your body. This could mean you’re having an allergic reaction to something in your environment or food.
  • Any red spots (pimples) on your skin—especially if they are accompanied by severe itching or pain in one area. This could be evidence of a more serious condition like hives, herpes zoster (shingles), bacterial infection, or insect bite reactions such as scabies or Lyme disease.