Stretch marks during pregnancy might itch because of dry skin and irritation or because of an underlying medical condition such as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. Medical conditions may require medical intervention, while normal itching usually responds to nonprescription comfort measures.
If you have itchy bumps in your stretch marks and spots that look like a rash, you might have PUPPP. Talk to your health care provider, especially if you develop any rashes during pregnancy. If you have PUPPP, your health care provider might recommend using a cortisone cream to relive itching or even prescribe an oral antihistamine or steroid if itching is severe. PUPPP usually resolves shortly after delivery, and it will not harm you or your baby. Other measures for normal itching can help your comfort level as well.
Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy
In some pregnant women, bile salts accumulate in the liver, producing itching. This itching not only affects the abdomen, but it usually affects the palms of the hands and soles of the feet as well. If you are experiencing this type of itching, talk to your health care provider. You may need prescription medication to address this type of itching. Your doctor will also monitor your liver function to make sure you and your baby are safe.
Comfort Measures for Normal Itching
Itchy stretch marks are usually caused by normal changes during pregnancy. There are a number of different steps you can take to relieve this condition. Hydrate your skin from the inside by drinking plenty of water every day. Eat a healthy diet to avoid any nutritional deficiencies that can exacerbate itching; be sure you are eating healthy fats, including nuts, seeds, avocado, flax seeds and olive oil. Including omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids in your diet also helps. Gentle daily exercise can help maintain good circulation and digestion, which can prevent waste products from building up in your body and causing itching.
Keep your bath or shower short, and use lukewarm water. Use a gentle, moisturizing soap. Dissolving a half-cup or more of baking soda in your water or taking an oatmeal bath can also be very soothing. Immediately following your bath or shower, apply an unscented moisturizing lotion, cream or oil to your skin to seal in moisture. You can use almond oil, cocoa butter, commercial lotions or commercial products that are designed specifically for stretch mark relief. Try using baby powder or cornstarch and see one works for you. Use a gentle detergent for laundry, and give your clothes an extra rinse to remove any detergent residue that can exacerbate irritation. Applying a cold pack can also help relieve itching.
Talk with your health care provider before using cortisone creams or other commercial anti-itch products that are not specifically designed for use during pregnancy. Calamine lotion or Benadryl lotions are options you want to discuss.