Q: My skin is red and itchy now that I'm pregnant. Why is this happening, and what can I do about it?
A: Blame it on those pregnancy hormones. Increased estrogen levels cause up to two-thirds of pregnant women to feel itchy, especially on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. It's also quite common for the skin across your belly to grow dry and itchy as it stretches. The best treatment for this is to moisturize often. Since your skin may be very sensitive, choose a gentle, unscented lotion (there are many on the market designed just for expectant moms).
Later on in your pregnancy, you might also experience a condition called PUPPP (it stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy), which is an itchy, bumpy rash usually found on the abdomen, thighs, butt, or arms. First-time moms and women carrying twins are more commonly affected. A small percentage of women also come down with a more serious condition called cholestasis of pregnancy, which involves severe itchiness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and possibly jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Since cholestasis could be a sign of a liver problem, call your doctor right away if you experience those symptoms. Both PUPPP and cholestasis are treated with prescription medication and usually improve shortly after your baby is born.
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