Medical Q&As

Pregnant - suffering from itch?

I am 24 weeks pregnant and have developed this intense itching from my wrist to shoulder and across my upper back. My doctor has advised that I take an antihistamine to relieve the itch. Will this condition ever go away? It is seriously affecting my everyday life. Please help.

Itch is a very common symptom during pregnancy and in many cases it can persist until delivery takes place. I assume that you donít have a rash since you make no mention of a rash in your question. If a rash were present then that would raise the possibility of a dermatological cause for the itch. However, it is worth mentioning in passing that many dermatological conditions, including eczema, actually improve during pregnancy. Since you have only recently developed this itch and you are now coming close to the third trimester of pregnancy it might be worthwhile having a liver function test performed to measure the level of bile in your blood. There is a condition that occurs during pregnancy that is known as cholestasis, which means that the level of bile acid in the blood increases due to the effect of the changed oestrogen levels. This increase in bile can cause intense itch. There is a specific treatment available for this condition that can be safely taken for the remainder of the pregnancy. It is probably a bit early for cholestasis to occur but given the intense level of the itch and the fact that it is of recent origin it might be worth testing for it. If the bile levels are normal then you have to try to manage the itch as best as you can. Emollient bath additives may help in addition to the antihistamine that you are already taking. Antihistamines can be particularly helpful at night when their mild sedative effects can assist sleeping, which can be a great problem for many women suffering from severe itch during pregnancy. Some women find that talcum powder and moisturising creams also give relief.