Did you have your doubts when you used to hear people complain about their belief that itching is worse than pain? You thought that pregnant Truus was just acting up and was happy to complain about anything and everything. But your pregnancy has given you a completely new perspective. Because: itching, and especially during pregnancy in combination with the many other ailments that are waiting in line to bother you, can be extremely miserable. Are you a victim of pregnancy itch? Then you must be eager to add ways to reduce this itching to the Big Book of Pregnancy Wisdom. So read on quickly!
What is pregnancy itch?
Well, before we move on to the fighting techniques, it's helpful to dissect the beast for a moment so we know what we're fighting against. First of all, it is good to know that there is nothing like "the pregnancy itch", as this term is used to name several types of itch conditions, which you may suffer from at different times during pregnancy. So you may suffer from a different kind of itch in your last trimester than your pregnant bestie who is only in her first trimester.
What these different itch conditions do have in common is that the itching often occurs on the parts of the body that grow during pregnancy. These include the abdomen and breasts, but also, for example, the arms, legs, hands, and feet. It is also comforting to know that as many as 20% of pregnant women suffer from it. Nothing to be ashamed of, then. However, it is important to find out what is causing your pregnancy itch, because not all causes are innocent and can have consequences for your mini-me.
How does pregnancy itch occur?
Growth of body parts
As a pregnant woman, you probably know better than anyone that the growth of certain body parts can be extremely rapid during pregnancy. And your skin is not always happy about this. Pregnancy itch is often caused by rapidly growing body parts, without the skin being able to keep up with the growth in those areas. The result? A lot of tension on the skin. This will stretch the skin, which (unfortunately) can cause itching.
Better circulation and dry skin
Thought that body parts with a growth spurt were the only causes of pregnancy itching? Wrong! During your pregnancy, you also have better blood circulation, which makes you feel warm faster than normal. The heat you feel on your body can also cause itching, as can dry skin. Hydration is extremely important to prevent stretchy skin from drying out. So treat yourself to a fine moisturizer!
PUPP, also known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, can also be the culprit when it comes to pregnancy itch. This skin condition (with a far too complex name) causes bumps and blisters, often around the areas where you have stretch marks, that itch tremendously. In most cases, this rash is fortunately confined to the abdomen. The good news is that this skin condition can be well treated with creams and ointments that your doctor can prescribe.
Did you used to suffer from eczema in your childhood, and are you now suffering from red skin, flakes, and bumps that itch again during pregnancy? Then chances are that you are now being harassed by your old friend eczema again. During pregnancy, your immune system works a little less well, so you may be a little more sensitive to this. This skin condition can also be treated well with the right creams and ointments that a doctor can prescribe for you.
No, don't panic, we're not talking about the herpes virus here. What we are talking about is an autoimmune disease that produces antibodies against the skin. The result is itchy vesicles and blisters that first appear on the abdomen, and then find their way to other parts of the body. Are you suffering from this? Then contact your doctor. This autoimmune disease can be dangerous for your little one: it increases the risk of premature birth and growth retardation.
Pregnant women who suffer from this condition suffer from congestion of bile in the bile ducts, which can cause an accumulation of bile salts. This too can cause extreme itching. Blame hormones for this. The difference with the other conditions is that pregnancy cholestasis does not have a visible rash, so this condition may be a little harder to recognize.
Are you experiencing decreased appetite, nausea, darker urine, yellowish skin, or fatter stools? If so, you may be suffering from pregnancy cholestasis and should contact your doctor. Pregnancy cholestasis causes the liver to function abnormally and therefore carries risks for the baby: low birth weight or premature birth. So be sure to raise the alarm in time!
What can you do about pregnancy itch?
Even when doing the simplest of tasks, or while hanging out on the couch and binge-watching (no shame there), itching can be a nuisance. When you feel the itch, it's hard to put all thoughts of it out of your mind, leaving you completely engrossed in it (and unable to focus on your Netflix series). Looking for ways to reduce the itch? We come to the rescue with the tips below:
- Avoid scratching. Just to finish with the tip that speaks for itself and that you probably don't want to hear. Scratching only makes the itching worse, which will probably only leave you with it for longer. Scratching hard can also damage the skin, and of course, you don't want that. Be kind to your skin, because you only have one!
- Short nails. If you really can't resist scratching (against your better judgment), make sure your nails are short. That way, you'll reduce the risk of scratching wounds.
- Loose and airy clothing. Wearing tight and warm clothes will also only make the itching worse. So, look for loose and airy garments in your wardrobe. Consider cotton and silk clothing, and avoid synthetic fabrics.
- Cotton bedding. Yes, even for bedding, it's a wise idea to choose a cotton variety to relieve the skin as much as possible.
- Hydration. Dry skin can be the culprit when it comes to pregnancy itch. So, try to prevent your skin from drying out in many ways. Drink plenty of water (duh, because that's good for a lot more still) and lubricate your skin regularly with a moisturizing (unscented) cream.
- Alternate baths. Start with warm water, and finish with cold water to get rid of the spikes of itchiness. Don't stay in the bath or shower too long, as that can also dry out the skin.
- Almond oil. Take a bath with almond oil to soothe itchy skin a little. On the other hand, try to avoid bathing and showering with soap, shampoo, or bath foam as much as possible.
- Menthol powder or gel. This talcum powder or gel has a cooling and nurturing effect, which can reduce itching. Trip to the pharmacy it is.
- Avoid foods with high-fat content. Why. To relieve your liver in terms of producing bile, and therefore prevent bile congestion as much as possible. And thus also the extreme itching that can result from it.
- Unscented detergent. From now on, do not use fabric softener, but a detergent without perfume. This will irritate the skin a lot less. Yes, I know you love that wonderful fabric softener immensely, but anything to get rid of that pesky itch, right?
- Moist towel over the heater. Are you feeling chilly and the heater is nice and toasty? Then get into the habit of putting a damp cloth over the heater to make the air in the house more humid. Right, again to prevent your skin from drying out.