Why does the skin itch during pregnancy?
Itching during pregnancy is not very common. In most cases the skin begins to itch unbearably (as with mosquito bites) in the late evening, which may provoke insomnia and have a negative effect on a woman’s mood in general. The itching does not usually affect the baby and goes away by itself after the birth. It is however advisable to consult a gynaecologist and dermatologist.
What causes it?
Itching during pregnancy is mostly caused by disorders in the function of the liver: production and excretion of bile, a general increase in the level of bilirubin in the blood. This happens as a result of a hormonal breakdown in the expectant mother’s body – a disorder in the synthesis of oestrogen, and also because of pressure from the foetus on the bile ducts. A large amount of fatty acids that are produced are carried via the bloodstream to a woman’s skin and they irritate the nerve endings causing the unbearable itching. Similar conditions associated with the congestion of bile in the body may become apparent in the third trimester of pregnancy. Itching may also sometimes be accompanied by dangerous illnesses such as diabetes.
Who is prone to the condition?
Itching during pregnancy is usually observed in women with chronic diseases of the biliary tracts and a high level of cholesterol in the blood. These expectant mothers should regularly (no less than once a month) undergo a biochemical analysis of the blood in order to exclude toxic effects on liver cells.
How can you control it?
A pregnant woman should talk to her gynaecologist about the discomfort associated with the itching. In some cases the itching may be a sign of the onset of a serious disease such as hepatitis. The doctor will conduct the necessary tests. If physical examination shows that the itch does not present any dangers, it is often possible to eliminate discomfort by following a diet aimed at reducing the level of cholesterol and limiting the consumption of fatty, spicy and salty foods, which interfere with the liver function of excreting bile and also by drinking plenty of fluids – this is needed to eliminate dry skin. If the diet does not help, the doctor may prescribe cholagogues (bile-expelling drugs) suitable for pregnant women.
It is important to find the cause of the irritating itch by excluding a whole group of skin diseases that may occur during pregnancy.
Itching on the abdomen and chest
This kind of itching should be considered separately. The skin on the abdomen or chest itches during the second and third trimesters due to stretching, as it is these parts of the body that increase in size during pregnancy. In this case it is very important to not to scratch the skin – this will cause stretch marks, which, unlike the itching, will not go away after the birth. You should regularly use moisturising creams and special formulas against stretch marks, massage the chest and stomach lightly with circular motions of the fingers and you should not take hot showers.