Why is my wife itching so much?

Q: My wife is 31 weeks along and, for the past month, she has been itching out of her skin!  She is so miserable because of it.  We have tried Benadryl, creams, lotions, everything.

A: Itchy skin during pregnancy can be very normal.  Many women get itchy for no other reason than the skin over the belly is continually being stretched and this can lead to dryness, stretch marks, and itching.  Most cases are harmless (besides driving your wife crazy because of her need to scratch all the time!). 

However, take note of where your wife is itchy and whether or not she has a rash.  If she is specifically scratching at the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet, she may have a condition called "cholestasis of pregnancy" and this can be dangerous for the baby.  Other conditions that can put the baby (and sometimes the mom) at risk include herpes gestations and PUPPS (pruritic urticarial papues and plaques).  Although most causes of itching are not harmful, it is important to bring this up to your practitioner.  Be sure to speak to your practitioner immediately should your wife experience any of the "red flag" symptoms below.

Red Flags - Nausea, vomiting, and itching. - Severe fatigue and itching. - Yellowing of the skin (particularly palms, soles, eyes) and itching. - Any rash and itching.

Here are a few helpful tips to cut down on itching. 


- Use a moisturizer twice a day and immediately after a shower or bath.- Use anti-itch creams like calamine lotion, 1% hydrocortisone cream, or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) cream. - Avoid taking really hot showers which can dry out your skin. - Drink plenty of water to stay well-hydrated. - Try an oatmeal bath. - Avoid spending long periods of time in hot weather or in the sun (which can make itching worse).


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