Itchy Stomach During Pregnancy

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on January 17, 2012

Many women suffer from an itchy stomach during pregnancy. There are several reasons for this. This usually happens as the uterus grows and the skin stretches to accommodate the baby. Other reasons for an itchy stomach in pregnancy include pregnancy hormones and changes in liver enzymes too.

During the last trimester, some women have itchy bumps or a larger hive like rash on their stomachs. About 1 % of women suffer from this condition which can begin from the 35th week of pregnancy. This is referred to medically as pruritic urticarial...

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...papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP). This itchy rash on the stomach during pregnancy is more common in women who are having their first baby or twins. This rash almost always starts in the stretch marks of the abdomen. It does not affect the belly button which makes it different from other rashes one gets during pregnancy. PUPP is characterized by excessive itching but it does not pose any risk to the mother or baby. The rash lasts for about 6 weeks and disappears 1-2 weeks after delivery. The cause of PUPP is unknown. More on itchy belly during pregnancy

In rare cases, some women develop itchy eruptions which look like hives but later develop into larger blistering lesions. This rash usually starts on the abdomen and spreads to the arms and legs. This is known as pemphigoid gestationis or herpes gestationis, but is not connected to the herpes virus. This is more serious than PUPP as it could lead to fetal growth problems and pre term labor. This usually begins in the third trimester but there have been cases of it in early pregnancy too. It generally disappears once the baby is born. About 2% of women suffer from yet another itching condition called Intrahepatic cholestasis. This is a pregnancy liver a related condition that affects the flow of bile into the body. Bile salts accumulate in the body and this causes the itching. This condition can occur in subsequent pregnancies too. Do contact your doctor immediately if you develop a rash or if itching becomes severe and is accompanied by appetite loss, fatigue, vomiting or nausea.

The itchiness can be treated with either moisturizers or prescribed medication (including topical ointments). Avoiding hot showers and baths with oatmeal help too. Loose cotton clothing and calamine lotion have been known to help as well. Most women experience itchiness during late pregnancy but an itchy stomach in early pregnancy has been known to occur as well as the skin starts stretching to accommodate the growing baby.

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