Is your belly so itchy that it’s hard to focus?
You might notice that the bigger the belly, the bigger the itch. Especially during the third trimester, the itch might become more frequent and intense.
The good news is that an itchy pregnancy belly is usually nothing to worry about. The bad news is that it might not go away until after pregnancy. Still, there’s a few things you can do for relief.
In this guide, we’re sharing what causes that annoying pregnancy belly itch and 15 remedies to stop it.
5 Causes of Pregnancy Belly Itch
Many women experience an itchy belly during pregnancy and it’s most likely not caused by anything serious. Typically, hormonal changes and stretch marks are to blame. However, sometimes a pregnancy belly itch can be a sign of a bigger condition.
If your itch is severe or accompanied by other symptoms you should seek medical attention.
Pregnancy triggers a variety of hormonal changes that cause many pregnancy symptoms. One of those symptoms is itchiness. An increase in estrogen may cause you to be more sensitive to itches.
As your belly expands, you might notice it becoming more itchy. As your uterus gets bigger, the skin stretches thin and dries out, leading to an itch. This is why having a pregnancy belly itch is most common in the third trimester.
Your belly might be itchy as the skin stretches, but it could also be a sign stretch marks are forming.
If you see stretch marks in the area of your itch, it could mean new stretch marks are developing.
Learn more about stretch marks by reading our guides:
- Everything You Need to Know About Stretch Marks
- Pregnancy Stretch Marks By Color: Red, Purple, White
- 8 Celebrities with Stretch Marks: Everyone Gets Them!
A pregnancy belly itch—like other itches—can be caused by dryness. Dry skin is more easily irritated, leading to symptoms like itching.
During pregnancy, you’re more likely to suffer from dry skin for a few of reasons. As discussed, hormonal changes can affect the moisture of your skin. In addition to that, you may have a harder time staying hydrated thanks to morning sickness. These factors combine and contribute to general dryness, including on the belly.
Obstetric Cholestasis (OC or ICP)
Although uncommon, an itchy belly during pregnancy can also be caused by obstetric cholestasis (OC), also called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). OC is a liver condition. It happens when bile builds up in the liver. It’s a serious condition that puts you at a higher risk for:
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Premature birth
- Your baby passing meconium and the complications associated with it
- Breathing problems
Symptoms of OC typically start around 28 weeks and may include:
- Itchiness in more than one area (commonly your hands and feet too)
- Upper right pain
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- Jaundice (yellowing skin)
It’s important to seek medical treatment if you think you have OC. Depending on how much bile acid is in your blood, doctors may recommend induction of labor.
According to the March of Dimes, it affects less than 1% of pregnant women in the U.S.
Causes of Pregnancy Belly Rash with an Itch?
If you have a pregnancy belly rash with an itch, you might have pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP).
PUPPPs are pregnancy rashes that appear near stretch marks. They typically appear in the third trimester when your belly is the most stretched. Sometimes they only begin in the last weeks or days before delivery.
Although these rashes begin on the stomach, they can also spread to other areas, like the legs, butt, and arms.
PUPPPs aren’t a cause for concern, but the itch can be annoying. For this reason, doctors can prescribe a steroid cream or oral antihistamine for relief.
Luckily, PUPPPs typically go away within 15 days after delivery.
15 Remedies for Pregnancy Belly Itch
If your rash isn’t caused by anything serious, there’s a few things you can try to reduce the discomfort. These tips mainly encourage moisture to avoid dryness.
Keep Belly Moisturized
Keep away dryness by applying moisturizer to your belly day and night—especially after baths or showers.
Use Oil Moisturizer
Some people prefer using oil to moisturize their skin during pregnancy. These can be thicker and may provide more hydration than lotions. Coconut and almond oil are good choices during pregnancy.
Use Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is another alternative to lotion that people swear by. Its richness can help lock in moisture.
Apply Calamine Lotion
Yes, the lotion your mom used when you had chicken pox can also be used to treat pregnant itches. Apply small amounts to the affected area.
Avoid Hot Baths and Showers
While warm baths and showers can be soothing for pregnancy’s aches and pains, avoid hot water. The heat can encourage more of your skin’s natural oils to come off, leading to dryness.
If you’re worried about your bath drying your skin, try adding a spoonful of almond or coconut oil.
Avoid Skin Products with Alcohol
Many skin products contain alcohol, which dries out the skin. Since you’re more sensitive during pregnancy, even normal products you used before may now irritate your skin. To limit dryness, choose alcohol-free lotions, soaps, and detergents.
Use a Humidifier
In dry climates, a humidifier can make a big difference.
Use AC Sparingly
Air conditioners can dry out your skin and cause it to itch. To avoid this, use your AC only when necessary.
The fluids you drink affect the moisture of your skin. This may be especially true if your morning sickness is causing you to vomit and lose fluids. If your skin is itchy, be sure to drink plenty of water.
Wear Loose Clothes
Tight clothes can irritate your skin, causing you to itch even more. Instead, opt for loose clothing and cotton fabrics.
Make a DIY Oatmeal Bath
Oatmeal can soothe your itchy skin while moisturizing it. You can make a bath using the oats you have in your kitchen. To learn how, read How to make an oatmeal bath to soothe and moisturize skin, according to dermatologists.
Make a DIY Oatmeal Paste
A DIY oatmeal paste can be applied to your itchy skin for relief. To make an oatmeal paste, pour oats into a thin sock, soak in warm water, and squeeze out the excess. The paste squeezed out should be applied to the area for about 10-15 minutes before washing off. Get the full instructions here.
Make a DIY Baking Soda Bath
You can also make an anti-itch bath using baking soda. According to the National Eczema Association, baking soda can help relieve itching when added to a bath soak. Add a few spoons to your next bath.
Use a Cold Compress
If you need immediate relief for your itchy pregnant belly, try a cold compress. Soak a cold cloth in water, ring it out, and leave it to your belly. Use this trick when you’re trying to avoid scratching your skin.
Prescription Steroid Cream
If your itching becomes severe, talk to your doctor to rule out or treat a skin condition. If you have PUPPS, your doctor can prescribe a steroid cream to alleviate the itchiness.
When to Go to The Doctor
If you don’t know what’s causing your pregnancy belly itch, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. Most often, an itchy pregnancy belly is normal and nothing to worry about. It’s often caused by hormonal changes, dryness, and stretch marks.
However, an itchy belly can also be a sign of a serious condition, like obstetric cholestasis (OC). If your itch is accompanied by other symptoms, contact your doctor.
You should also talk to your doctor if your itch becomes severe. Although harmless, PUPPS can cause severe itching that may only be relieved with a prescription cream.
Summary: Pregnancy Belly Itch
If you have a pregnancy belly itch, welcome to the club! Itchy bellies are incredibly common during pregnancy and usually aren’t a cause for concern. Typically, the itch can be relieved by keeping the skin moisturized and avoiding products that cause dryness. For immediate itch relief, try an oatmeal bath, oatmeal paste, or cold compress.
A pregnancy belly rash with an itch may be a sign of PUPPS, which is harmless but may require prescription cream to stop the itch.
If your itch is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, seek medical attention. Although rare, an itch without a rash can be a sign of OC. OC requires monitoring and can lead to pregnancy complications.
Do You Have a Fetal Doppler Yet?
Fetal dopplers are at-home devices that amplify your baby’s heartbeat from inside the womb. Simply use the probe to find your baby and listen as her heartbeat plays from the speakers. Families say the experience helps them bond with their baby throughout pregnancy.