Tommy's PregnancyHub

Itching in pregnancy

Some itching around the stomach is normal as your skin is stretching around your growing baby.
Maternity care is still essential during the coronavirus pandemic and services are still running. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy call your GP, midwife, nearest early pregnancy unit or maternity unit.

What are the causes of itching in pregnancy?

As your pregnancy progresses the skin on your stomach stretches, which may feel mildly itchy. Itching can also be caused by hormone changes.

Mild itching is not usually harmful to you or your baby. If you have mild itching you may find it helpful to:

  • wear loose clothes
  • wear cotton clothes and avoid ones that are made of synthetic or wool materials
  • have cool baths
  • avoid using strong perfume and use unperfumed soap
  • use lotion or moisturiser on your stomach
  • avoid spicy food, alcohol or caffeine.

Contact your midwife or doctor if you are itchy and have a rash. There are some skin conditions, that may need treatment, such as Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy. This condition can cause itching, a rash, small raised lumps and large inflamed areas of skin.It can be unpleasant and uncomfortable but it will not harm you or your baby.

Intrahepatic cholestasis

Itching can also be a symptom of a condition called intraheptic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP, also known as obstetric cholestasis). This is a liver condition that can develop in pregnancy.

Normally, bile acids flow from your liver to your gut to help you digest food. In ICP, the bile acids don't flow properly and build up in your body instead. There's no cure for ICP, but it should go away once you've had your baby.

Itching is the main symptom of ICP, usually without a rash. The itch is often more noticeable on the palm of the hands and soles of the feet, but you may feel it all over the body.

For some women the itching is unbearable and can be worse at night (but it can be mild for others).

Other symptoms of ICP can include:

  • dark wee
  • pale poo
  • sometimes people also have yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice).

Tell your midwife or doctor if you have itching, even if you think it’s mild. They will be able to give you more tests if needed, including blood tests, to make sure that it’s nothing serious. 

Find out more about intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known as obstetric cholestasis (OC).

NHS Choices Itching and intrathpatic cholestasis of pregnancy www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/itching-obstetric-cholestasis-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 25/07/2016 Next review due: 25/07/2019)

CKS (2015) Itch in pregnancy https://cks.nice.org.uk/itch-in-pregnancy#!scenariorecommendation:6

Review dates
Last reviewed: 27 September 2018
Next review: 27 September 2021