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Russter's avatar

How can a pregnant woman get relief from itching at night?

Asked by Russter (242 points ) July 28th, 2009

My eight month pregnant wife has been terribly itchy lately and it is driving her crazy. She has never had this before. She seems to be especially itchy at nights. She got tested a while ago and the doctors say she does not have Obstetric Cholestasis. What could it be and is there any way I can help her find relief?

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8 Answers

marinelife's avatar

From a midwifery site:

“Itching skin during pregnancy can be caused by hormonal changes. Also remember that in later pregnancy your skin must stretch, which also can cause itching. Dry skin can become very irritated, especially during the winter months when forced-air heating aggravates skin discomfort.”

To prevent skin irritation, pregnant women (and all people) should avoid mineral oil-based skin care products as well as harsh soap and laundry products. Some women benefit from avoiding soap altogether. Read the labels; most skin products are made with mineral oil. Also rule out irritation from any recent changes in the soap or laundry products you use. Choosing the most natural kind of shampoo, soap, and laundry products is always wise to protect your health and environment. Because you’re making a baby, begin treating your own skin like a baby’s. Many women have found that applying hexane-free castor oil softens and soothes dry and scaly skin.

Itching can often be alleviated by adding unrefined virgin olive oil to your diet. Also increase your intake of foods that are rich in vitamins A, D, and linolenic acids.

Vitamin A-rich foods:

* fish liver oil, liver, vegetables, eggs, dairy products

Vitamin D sources:

* Saltwater fish, sunlight (no tanning – use sunscreen), vitamin D-fortified dairy products, fish liver oil

Linolenic acid sources:

* Flax seed oil, evening primrose oil, sardines

Between 0.02 and 2.4% of pregnant women are diagnosed with a condition called pruritus gravidarum (also called PUPS), a kind of itching unique to pregnancy. It is related to elevated estrogen and progesterone levels interfering with the liver’s efficiency in excreting bile salts. Onset is usually in the third trimester, and the itching is severe. Although this condition is not characterized by lesions, abrasions caused by scratching and contact with clothing can be very painful.

If this happens to you, you should support your liver with the following herbs:

* Dandelion: a detoxifying herb that supports liver function
* Yellow dock: relieves heat in the circulatory system and builds iron supply
* Burdock: dispels toxins by means of diuresis (peeing toxins out)
* Beet root: nourishing and supportive, promotes elimination, cleanses the liver.

Make sure you are drinking sufficient amounts of water. Ask your health provider about using these herbs during pregnancy.

The worst case of pruritus gravidarum I have seen was treated without antihistamine drugs. The woman’s backup physician told her that he could prescribe an antihistamine but preferred that she consult the midwife and look for a natural alternative. This young mother also said, “I’ve eaten worse in this pregnancy than in my first two. I’m not surprised I developed this skin condition.” She was anemic and exhausted because the itching was interfering with her sleep. Within hours of starting herbal therapy to support her liver and increase her iron, she had great relief and slept through the night.”

sandystrachan's avatar

Baby powder , sudocrem or E45 .

casheroo's avatar

Ugh, I remember the itching! I hope it’s not as bad this time around

I used vitamin E on my belly, to help with the itchies, I think I’ll try Jojoba Oil this time.

MissAusten's avatar

Is the itching all over, or localized? I had this horrible, itchy rash on the underside of my belly toward the end of my second pregnancy. I thought it was going to drive me crazy, and it was worse at night. I remember getting up at 3 a.m. and slathering lotion on my belly, unable to stop scratching.

The next time I saw my doctor, he said I had a PUPP rash. Using lotions and creams only makes it worse. Instead, he had me use a benedryl anti-itch cream. It was summer, and he said swimming in the chlorinated pool would also help. The idea was to help dry out the rash. It quickly improved until it hardly bothered me, and after my son was born, it disappeared. Of my three pregnancies, that was the only time I had the rash.

Edited to say: I just read @Marina‘s answer more closely and saw that she mentions this too, with natural remedies. Sorry for the repeat!

Judi's avatar

Pregnant women pee a lot and sometimes don’t drink enough water. Sometimes the answer is just as simple as drinking a lot more water.

MagsRags's avatar

The midwifery site quoted in the first reponse has mistakenly lumped together PUPPS and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP)- they’re two very different conditions, that both have to be considered in a pregnant woman with itching.

PUPPS starts out as red itchy bumps, usually in the stretch marks, and can spread from there. It’s the most common pregnancy related skin condition. Missaustin’s story is pretty typical except it’s most common with first baby. It can be very miserable, but isn’t dangerous for the mom or harmful to the baby. Experts think it’s some sort of inflammatory reaction within the connective tissue. It’s usually treated with prescription strength corticosteroid cream or ointment and/or oral antihistamines. Sometimes soaking in lukewarm water, with or without baking soda or oatmeal can give tmeporary relief.

“elevated estrogen and progesterone levels interfering with the liver’s efficiency in excreting bile salts” is referring to ICP. It causes intolerable generalized itching but no visible rash – skin eruptions with ICP are a result of scratching. Women will describe wanting to take a hair brush to their skin, it’s so bad. It’s diagnosed by blood tests to look for elevated bile salts. I work in a tertiary care center, with a full and busy lab, and unfortunately it usually takes 1–2 weeks to get bile salts results back. That’s a real problem, because ICP puts the baby at risk for prematurity, breathing problems after delivery, or even stillbirth at term. So when we see a pregnant woman at term who fits the clinical picture for ICP, we usually recommend inducing labor rather than waiting a couple of weeks for test results and worrying about the baby in the meantime.

Russter said his wife was tested for ICP with negative results. That takes you back to PUPPS, although dry skin and contact allergic type dermatitis are definitely worth thinking about.

Russter's avatar

Thanks for the good suggestions. My wife has not experienced any rashes or bumps. We’re going to try dandelion tea tonight… yum yum.

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