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Itchy Belly

WHAT CAUSES THE ITCHINESS?

One of the issues you may find as your pregnancy develops is your bump becomes quite itchy. This can be due to the expanding bump stretching out and placing the skin under pressure as well as increase in different hormones.

Intrahepitc Cholestasis of Pregnancy

However it can be a symptom of a liver condition known as intraheptic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) or  obstetric cholestasis (OC). This is a potentially serious condition where bile builds up in your body rather than flowing into the gut to help digest the food.  It can start as early as 8 weeks into the pregnancy but more commonly after about 30 weeks.

Symptoms of ICP are:

  • itching all over the body but especially hands and feet
  • itching that worsens at night
  • dark urine
  • paler feces
  • yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes – but this is a less common symptom

Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP)

If the itch on your belly is accompanied by a rash and bumps it could be Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP).  While it can look a bit worrying it is actually a benign condition that apart from the annoying itch and rash is not harmful to the baby or yourself. It can also appear on your arms, thighs and or buttocks. At present it is not known what causes PUPPP but it generally resolves after giving birth. Treatments are the same for PUPPP as for dry skin induced itchiness, see below.

TREATMENTS

Provided your itchy belly is not one of the more serious conditions then here are some simple remedies that you can try to help alleviate your symptoms:

  • Don’t scratch! This may seem a no-brainer but it is important that you try not to scratch as all this will do is irritate the skin further and if your skin is already taught could become inflamed or broken.
  • Hydration: as your bump expands it can become more and more dried out. It is important to keep the skin hydrated by using a good moisturiser and some oils can be very useful at helping lock in moisture.  Another key way to help with hydration of the skin is to ensure you’re getting enough fluids. Some women start to reduce their fluid intake towards the third trimester due to the frequent bathroom trips. Keeping up the hydration is important during this period!
  • Tepid Baths/Showers: while this may sound very unappealing unfortunately hot water can be very drying to the skin but tepid doesn’t have the same effect. You can also add something like colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to the bath. And remember to gently pat your skin dry afterwards and add moisturisers and or oils afterwards.
  • Cold compresses: applied to the itchy area can provide temporary relief from the itch and any associated inflammation.
  • Humidifiers: if you live in a dry climate then using a humidifier can help to keep your skin from drying out too much. Just ensure they are kept clean as if not cleaned properly can become bacteria breeding grounds.
  • Medicated treatments: there are some topical treatments such as hydrocortisone treatments than can be applied. Or in extreme cases antihistamines can be taken. But as with using any medication it is important to discuss it with your doctor and or pharmacist to ensure there is no risk involved.

Generally an itchy belly is just an annoyance but as mentioned above if at all concerned and if the itch is not restricted to the belly area or you have any of the above more concerning symptoms then have a chat to your health care provider.

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