pregnant woman looking down at her belly. help for itchy skin during pregnancy

How to Relieve Itchy Skin During Pregnancy

By Marisa Iallonardo
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
March 05, 2024

It’s a great feeling to watch your growing bump. What’s not so great? Feeling itchy while pregnant—an annoying symptom that can happen as that bump grows.

What Causes Itchy Skin During Pregnancy?

“The primary driver for itchy skin is the expanding abdomen,” says Eve Espey, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, in Albuquerque. “Your abdomen gets big, and it physically stretches your skin. Skin stretching in pregnancy is very highly associated with itching.” And itchiness may get more intense the further along in your pregnancy you get.

Hormones can also play a role. “Your belly itches when you’re pregnant, but other parts of your body can itch, too, and that is likely more due to hormonal changes of pregnancy,” Espey says. Hormone changes can worsen existing itchy skin conditions like eczema, as well, she notes.

When Is Itchy Skin a Sign of a Problem?

Itchy skin is common and usually more annoying than serious. But there are a couple of conditions to keep on your radar and talk to your provider about:


PUPPP stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. It may also be called PEP, or polymorphic eruption of pregnancy.

This uncomfortable skin condition typically occurs in the third trimester. It causes a bumpy, itchy rash that starts out on your abdomen before showing up in places like your thighs and buttocks, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. While experts aren’t totally sure what causes PUPPP, it’s not harmful to the baby.

PUPPP typically goes away after the baby is born. Your doctor may be able to prescribe an anti-itching cream to help in the meantime.

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)

ICP is a liver condition that can occur when you’re pregnant. A symptom of ICP is a rashless itch that’s especially intense at night.

Andrea Baker, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn with UT Health Houston in Bellaire, Texas, explains that symptoms of ICP usually crop up in the second or third trimester. Look out for itching that starts on your hands and/or soles of your feet and then spreads to the rest of your body.

If you notice any of those symptoms of ICP, reach out to your provider. They may want to perform a blood test to check for ICP. This liver condition increases the risk of dangerous issues like preterm delivery, so they will likely monitor you closely if you have it.

How Can You Relieve Itchy Skin?

ICP requires medical help. For PUPPP, your provider can offer solutions like a corticosteroid cream or an antihistamine.

To help with typical itchiness, you can turn to many of the same things you’d have done before pregnancy. Try using a gentle, unscented lotion, opt for cotton clothing over synthetic fibers, and take cool baths so as not to dry out your skin.

“I would recommend staying away from scented soaps. Those can irritate the skin,” Baker says. She also recommends switching to an unscented or gentle detergent to see whether that helps, too. Some pregnant people can be sensitive to certain ingredients.

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