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How to Deal With Pregnancy Itch?

Updated on June 4, 2015
janmodric profile image

Jan has been researching and writing about health and nutrition for several years.

This article is for the information only. Speak with your doctor before using any of the products mentioned bellow.


Stretch marks

Herpes gestationis

Impetigo herpetiformis

Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP)


Prurigo of pregnancy

Anti-itch baths, moisturizing creams, pastes, lotions, gels and oral drugs safe in pregnancy

Pregnancy category C medications

Stretch marks

Stretch marks (Striae gravidarum)
Stretch marks (Striae gravidarum) | Source

Stretch Marks (Striae Gravidarum)

Stretch marks are reddish or bluish streaks in the abdominal wall caused by transient skin scarring and thinning; they can appear from the second trimester on.

Stretch marks cannot be prevented or treated, but itchiness can be relieved by:

  • Cocoa butter oil or olive oil
  • Colloidal oatmeal bath
  • Baking soda bath
  • Baking soda paste (for severe itch)

Herpes gestationis

Herpes gestationis
Herpes gestationis | Source

Herpes Gestationis or Pemphigoid Gestationis

Very itchy red bumps can appear in the second or third trimester, initially in the belly button, and then spread all over the body, but rarely to the face or neck.

  • Itchiness can be relieved by steroids (ointments or tablets)

Impetigo herpetiformis

Impetigo herpetiformis (pustular psoriasis of pregnancy)
Impetigo herpetiformis (pustular psoriasis of pregnancy) | Source

Impetigo Herpetiformis

Impetigo herpetiformis is a form of psoriasis. Large red patches covered with small herpes-like blisters initially appear on the thighs and may later spread to the trunk. After delivery, the rash usually disappears spontaneously but can reoccur in the subsequent pregnancies, usually in the earlier phase and with greater severity.

  • Treatment may include oral corticosteroids, cyclosporine, the antibiotic cephalosporin and calcium supplements.


Pruritic Urticarial Papules And Plaques Of Pregnancy (PUPPP)
Pruritic Urticarial Papules And Plaques Of Pregnancy (PUPPP) | Source

Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP) or Polymorphic Eruption of Pregnancy (PEP)

Itchy, red, hives-like bumps or patches in or around the stretch marks can appear in the third trimester of the first pregnancy or shortly after delivery. Very rarely and in milder form it can occur in subsequent pregnancies. It disappears from few days to several weeks after delivery.

What can help:

  • Cool showers
  • Pine tar soap, Epsom salt bath
  • Emollients
  • Antihistamine pills or cream
  • Steroid creams or pills


Atopic dermatitis (eczema) on the inside of the elbow
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) on the inside of the elbow | Source

Eczema or Atopic Eruption of Pregnancy (AEP)

Eczema is a chronic rash due to allergic reaction to pollen, environmental pollutants or other triggers. It appears as red or brown, scaly, itchy rash behind the knees, on the inner side of elbow, under the breasts, on the face, neck, upper chest, hands or feet.

What can relieve itch:

  • Wet, cool compresses
  • Warm baths with baking soda
  • Fragrance-free soaps
  • Ceramides or pine tar
  • Colloidal oatmeal lotion
  • Antihistamines
  • Steroid creams
  • Ultraviolet light (UV-B)
  • In severe cases: oral steroids or cyclosporine

Prurigo gravidarum


Prurigo of Pregnancy or Pruritus Gravidarum or Papular Eruption of Pregnancy

Very itchy red papules (small, flat, solid elevations) can appear on the outer side of arms and front side of legs or the belly in any trimester but usually in the late second or early third trimester. The cause is uncertain - it may be of allergic origin.

What can relieve itch:

  • Steroid ointments
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Creams with 1-2% menthol
  • Oral steroids

Palmar erythema

Palmar erythema
Palmar erythema | Source

Palmar Erythema

Palmar erythema with red and itchy palms during pregnancy may be caused by increased estrogen levels. Outside pregnancy, palmar erythema is sometimes seen in individuals with liver disease, polycythemia or hyperthyroidism.

Other Diseases Causing Itch in Pregnancy

  • Obstetric cholestasis or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy - impaired secretion of bile from the liver due to liver disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Thyroid problems
  • Cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma
  • Skin conditions: eczema (dermatitis), psoriasis, scabies, lice, chickenpox, hives
  • Nerve disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, pinched nerves and shingles (herpes zoster), which can also cause tingling and numbness
  • Irritation and allergic reactions to wool, chemicals, soaps, poison ivy
  • Food allergies also may cause skin to itch.

Homemade oatmeal bath

Anti-Itch Baths Safe in Pregnancy

You may prepare various warm baths to relieve itch from stretch marks or eczema (not for open blisters). NOTE: Bathing powders may make a tub very slippery! Soak for about 15 minutes and then air dry and use a moisturizing cream while your skin is still moist.

  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3) bath. Put 1 cup (240 mL) of soda in a warm water.
  • Sitz baths with baking soda for vaginal itch without discharge. Add 1-2 teaspoons of soda in few liters of warm water.
  • Sitz baths in a warm water for hemorrhoids
  • Oatmeal bath, homemade. Grind plain unflavored oatmeal in a food processor or coffee grinder until you get fine powder. The powder is fine enough when it gives a milky suspension when mixed with water. Slowly add one cup of powder while warm water for the bath is running.
  • Cornstarch bath, homemade. Make it like an oatmeal bath.
  • Colloidal oatmeal bath. Several brands are available over-the-counter. Prepare according to instructions.
  • Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath. Add one pound of epsom salt in a warm water. It may relieve itch in PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy). Do not use soap while in the epsom salt bath.

Moisturizing Creams Safe in Pregnancy

Moisturizers, probably safe in pregnancy:

Emollients are products that soften the skin. Probably safe ingredients include fatty acids (stearic, linoleic, etc.), oils (almond, castor), ceramides, isopropyl myristate, palmitate, stearate, pine tar.

Humectants are products that hydrate the skin. Probably safe ingredients include glycerine, glycolic acid, sorbitol, honey, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid.

Moisturizers that may cause itch or eczema:

  • Dimethicone cream
  • Lanolin
  • Mineral oils (aqueous cream, petroleum jelly).

Vitamins C, D, E, K are probably ineffective in relieving itch.

Anti-Itch Pastes, Creams and Lotions Safe in Pregnancy

The following topical anti-itch products are probably safe in pregnancy:

  • Baking soda paste. Mix three parts baking soda with one part water. Apply on the itchy rash.
  • Calamine lotion cools the skin and may help in itchy hands and itchy rash.
  • Camphor ointment is analgesic for painful and itchy skin.
  • Diphenhydramine cream is antihistamine that may relieve itch in PUPPP and eczema.
  • Lidocaine cream is a local anesthetic.
  • Menthol cream cools the skin and may relieve itch.
  • Mupirocin cream is an antibiotic for folliculitis and other staph skin infections. Skin infection pictures.
  • Witch hazel lotion may help to shrink hemorrhoids.

Anti-Itch Pills Safe in Pregnancy

The following oral medications are probably safe in pregnancy:

  • Diphenhydramine pills are nonprescription antihistamines that may relieve itch in eczema, PUPPP, prurigo of pregnancy. They cause sleepiness, so they are usually taken before bed.
  • Loratadine pills are nonprescription antihistamines that do not cause sleepiness.

Antihistamine pills may also help in other causes of itchy legs.

Gels for Acne in Pregnancy

Probably safe gels for acne in pregnancy:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Azelaic acid
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), such as glycolic acid

FDA Pregnancy Category C Medications

Pregnancy category C medications (according to the US Food and Drug Administration) have no proven harmful effects on the human fetuses, but had harmful effects in studies on animal fetuses, so they should be used only when prescribed by a doctor:

  • Amonium lactate cream (moisturizer)
  • Benzocaine cream (anesthetic)
  • Butoconazole vaginal cream (for vaginal yeast infection)
  • Calcipotriene cream (for psoriasis)
  • Coal tar (for psoriasis)
  • Gabapentin (for shingles, herpes)
  • Pimecrolimus cream (for eczema)
  • Pramoxine cream (anesthetic)
  • Steroids: hydrocortisone cream, triamcinolone topical, betamethasone topical, prednisone pills (for PUPPP, eczema, prurigo of pregnancy, impetigo herpetiformis, herpes gestationes, papular dermatitis of pregnancy)
  • Tacrolimus cream (for eczema)
  • Tretinoine cream (for acne)
  • Urea cream (for eczema, psoriasis)
  • Zinc oxide paste (for hemorrhoids)


  • Regular shower, wearing nonirritating clothes and avoiding dust can help prevent itch.
  • Avoid hot showers, walking out in hot weather and direct exposure of skin to sun.
  • Antifungal shampoos against dandruff are available in stores.
  • Sweating can aggravate itch.
  • Cosmetic creams can irritate the skin.
  • Dry skin due to windy weather or dehydration can itch.
  • Cold, moist patches can help relieve itch.
  • If possible, avoid scratching.

Please, Contribute

What helped you to relieve itch in pregnancy?

See results


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    • janmodric profile imageAUTHOR

      Jan Modric 

      4 years ago from Europe

      PUPPP very unlikely occurs in subsequent pregnancies, but it is possible - in this case it would be usually much milder than the first time.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Can PUPPP again occur in subsequent pregnancies?


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