Itching in pregnancy
What causes itching in pregnancy?
As your baby grows, 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 or lukewarm baths
- avoid using strong perfume and use unperfumed soap
- use unperfumed moisturiser on your stomach (keeping this in fridge so it is cool can help)
- avoid spicy food, alcohol or caffeine because these can affect the blood flow in your skin and make itching worse.
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP)
Itching can 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 and needs close monitoring by healthcare professionals.
ICP can be serious, so it is important that you tell your midwife or doctor if you are feeling itchy.
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. The itching may be worse at night.
Other symptoms of ICP can include:
- dark wee
- pale poo
- sometimes people also have yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice).
ICP can be very serious, so it is vital that you 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 you and your baby are healthy.
Find out more about intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known as obstetric cholestasis (OC).
Itch with a rash
Contact your GP or 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.
NHS. Itching and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/complications/itching-and-intrahepatic-cholestasis/ (Page last reviewed: 5 January 2023 Next review due: 5 January 2026)
NI Direct. Itching. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/conditions/itching
NHS Sussex Community Dermatology Service. (2020) Polymorphic Eruption of Pregnancy. https://sussexcds.co.uk/patient-information/polymorphic-eruption-pregnancy/