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Itching during pregnancy

Itching in pregnancy can be caused by your skin stretching. Here we discuss how to relieve itching during pregnancy and when severe itching may indicate a more serious condition.

Itchy skin during pregnancy may be caused by increased blood supply to the skin. Later on, stretching of the skin, particularly your breasts, belly and thighs can also cause pregnancy itching. You may be able to help by:

  • moisturising the skin 
  • wearing lose clothes
  • avoiding synthetic fibres.

Some women find that exposure to the sun in pregnancy causes skin irritation and have to cover up and stay in the shade.

Severe itching during pregnancy should always be reported to a midwife or doctor as it may be a sign of a serious disease called intrahepatic cholestasis (formerly obstetric cholestasis). It may also be a sign of a condition known as PUPPP, which is uncomfortable, but not usually dangerous. Localised itching, such as over the site of an old operation scar, is usually normal.

Page last reviewed: 9 May 2014

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support with all aspects of being pregnant, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.  We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

NHS Choices includes information on itching in pregnancy.

OCSupport UK is a group set up to help families affected by obstetric cholestasis. It provides support and information to women who have, or who may have, the condition, and their families, and also aims to keep up-to-date on the most recent research into the condition.