Eczema during Pregnancy: Types, Causes, Signs & Treatment

Eczema During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rashmi Sriram (Dermatologist)
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Pregnancy is a combination of excitement and stress. But when the stress begins to surpass and take over, it can manifest itself in a variety of forms, including eczema. During pregnancy, your doctor may not recommend all the necessary medication required to control eczema and taking care of your skin will be a personal responsibility in that regard. Eczema and rashes can be easily misinterpreted. Also, certain studies have shown about 50% percent women suffer from eczema during pregnancy, with most of them having it for the very first time.

So what is eczema? It is a condition that causes inflammed or irritated skin. In this article, we shall talk a little more about this skin condition and share some information on its signs, causes, diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to read till the end for some tips to manage the condition.

Types of Eczema

Types of Eczema

Here are some common types of eczema:

1. Contact Dermatitis

In contact dermatitis, the skin irritation is triggered when the skin makes contact with the typical triggering element. Most of the elements are specific soaps, or fragrances, certain kinds of fabrics that are synthetic, dyes, dust, or other things. Once these objects come in contact with the skin, they may trigger eczema. On replacing the entity causing the trigger, further aggravation can be prevented.

2. Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is slightly different from contact dermatitis. This isn’t due to skin contact as such, so it cannot be easily combated. Such kind of dermatitis may occur due to sensitivity towards a specific type of food, any allergens in the environment, or even abrupt weather changes. At times, the change in hormones in a pregnant woman’s body can cause the skin to inflame, and itch, resulting in eczema.

Causes of Pregnancy Eczema

  • In pregnancy, eczema usually occurs in the earlier months. Primarily, in the early stages of pregnancy, the mother’s immunity is lower than usual since the body is working beyond its usual capacity to prepare for the changes yet to come.
  • As the foetus is undergoing formation and requires as much protection as possible, the mother’s body is left vulnerable in ensuring the safety of the newborn child.
  • In such a case, the body’s immune system develops antigens that aggressively fight any and every sign of attack. This results in them, at times, attacking the cells of the body itself, which results in eczema.
  • Tiny red rashes form on the ski; they itch a lot with a burning sensation and turn red. These are the tell-tale signs of eczema. With undue stress and any chronic disease, this condition can continue existing or worsen further.
  • Inflamed oral cavities, sinusitis, and a number of other diseases that cause various pathogens to exist in the body, further increase the aggression of the antigens. This aggression then causes eczema to grow further.

Signs and Symptoms Eczema During Pregnancy

Here are some more signs and symptoms of eczema during pregnancy:

  • Multiple rashes
  • Red bumps that are rough and itchy
  • Bumps that are often grouped together in clusters
  • Bumps that have a crust-like layer
  • Visibility of certain pustules
  • Previous history of eczema

Who Is More Prone to Eczema During Pregnancy?

In most cases, pregnancy-induced eczema is the first time that most women have experienced eczema in their lives. Furthermore, any history of eczema earlier in life could cause it to flare up again during pregnancy. Estimates point at roughly 20-40 percent of cases being of women who have experienced eczema before. Nearly 60-80 percent women experience eczema for the first time, during their pregnancy.

How Is the Diagnosis Made?

The diagnosis of eczema is generally made by visual examination itself. Most doctors can instantly tell the presence of eczema by looking at the skin. In certain cases, a biopsy might be conducted to confirm the same.

The doctor might ask you to recall any changes you noticed in your body in the months of your pregnancy. They will primarily work towards ruling out any other causes that might lead to similar red spots to appear, ensuring your baby is safe.

It’s best to personally note the specific time around when you first spotted the changes in your skin if any lifestyle or routine changes have been undertaken following which the spots began to appear, any particular aspect that helped reduce eczema or worsened it, and so on.

Do remember to tell your doctor all the medication you are currently taking during pregnancy, as well as any treatment you might have tried previously for eczema.

Does Eczema Affect the Baby?

Eczema directly does not harm the baby at all, since it cannot reach the foetus via the placenta. The presence of eczema, however, can irritate the mother and cause stress, which could affect the baby. Being emotionally and mentally stable without undue stress is highly required for the baby.

Treatment and Medication

In a majority of the cases, eczema cream for pregnancy is generally recommended along with moisturisers and ointments to keep it under control.

  • A prescription for a steroid ointment might be authorised in case the eczema is too severe. Though topical steroids are safe during pregnancy, it’s best to reconfirm the same with your doctor.
  • Certain people have undertaken UV light therapy to clear eczema, too.
  • Any treatment methods involving Trexail, Rasuva or PUVA are harmful to the foetus and should be avoided.

You may try some home remedies to manage eczema during pregnancy. They can give you relief and reduce the intensity of the irritation. Here are some of them:

  • Warm showers should be preferred over hot showers.
  • Use moisturisers right after the shower to keep the skin hydrated.
  • Opt for clothing that is made from 100% cotton. Clothes made from hemp or wool might end up irritating your skin.
  • Make sure your clothes are not snug or tight, but loose and comfortable.
  • Replace soaps with moisturising gels.
  • If your home is in a hot area, try using humidifiers inside to keep your air from drying up.
  • Regularly drink a good amount of water for yourself and the baby.

Management of Eczema During Pregnancy

Here are some things you can do to manage eczema during pregnancy.

1. Avoid Irritants

The first step is to remove the triggering entity that causes eczema in the first place. It is always in your favour to see if replacing your soaps or lotions can keep it in check. Sometimes, cleaning detergents or certain food items could also be the culprits. These might not be the only reason behind your eczema. However, replacing them can prevent chances of it occurring again and keep it in check.

2. Curbing the Itch

The itching sensation is extremely irritating, and any itching done to the affected area will further aggravate it. It can, however, be curbed in a few ways.

  • Massage the area by applying pressure with your fingertips instead of scratching it.
  • Use a washcloth to rub the area to get some instant relief.
  • Place dampened and wrung pyjamas or gloves on the affected area. It will soothe the itch and help some moisture enter the skin.
  • Using peppermint oil is yet another way to combat the itch. Start by applying some coconut oil or olive oil over the entire area. Then, add just a single drop of peppermint oil and spread it as widely as possible. This dilution is necessary to prevent any further irritation. Do not use it where the skin has broken since it will sting a lot. Avoid using this oil once you are in the third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Add some baking soda to your bath water and soak in the affected area. Remember to moisturise immediately after.
  • This is admittedly a weird option, but some people have found oatmeal baths quite soothing.
  • The standard coconut oil is also a great moisturiser and also prevents the broken skin from catching any infection.
  • Go for cotton woven pyjamas and bedsheets. The smooth texture will help the skin recover sooner.
  • Wear cotton socks in case eczema has affected your feet. For hands and palms, using long-sleeved shirts and cotton gloves goes a long way.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, the sun can actually help in reducing the itch and heal the skin sooner. Without letting yourself get burnt, try staying out in the sun for slightly longer than usual.

Things You Can Do to Rebuild Healthy Skin During Pregnancy

The constant scratching and itching can break down the skin completely and render it unable to hold the moisture required. It’s necessary to reduce the chances of dry skin by rebuilding healthy skin for yourself.

  • Drinking judicious quantities of water is necessary. It shouldn’t be a lot since it does not directly hydrate the skin, but remember to consume the daily quota that’s required.
  • Moisturising the skin is similar to rebuilding the first line of defence for the skin. With a damaged lipid barrier failing to hold the skin’s moisture, a moisturiser helps keep the skin soft. Don’t use the ones with alcohol in it as they can sting the skin. Go for homemade lotions or ones with pure oil ingredients without preservatives.
  • Pumpkin seed oil, when consumed appropriately, can help rebuild the lipid barrier. This would require you to confer with your doctor first before deciding on the quantity of consumption.
  • Showers, when long and hot, dry out the skin than keeping it wet. Go for small warm showers and use a moisturiser right after you’re done.
  • Avoid manual shavers and go for electric razors instead to avoid any scratches or injuries to the skin.
  • Vitamin D supplements are useful in these cases as well, as long as you aren’t taking more than your daily requirement.
  • In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend a steroid cream to accelerate the healing of the skin. Generally, this is avoided during pregnancy and, hence, should be completely the doctor’s opinion alone.

Eczema and pregnancy are not meant to go hand-in-hand but usually end up so. As irritating as it might be, it is necessary to remember and maintain a positive attitude while fighting against it. Keeping eczema in check and keeping your spirits high are the best ways to maintain your health and the baby’s, too.

Also Read:

Rashes during Pregnancy
Dry Skin during Pregnancy 

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