Being pregnant can cause a wide range of skin changes, including eczema. In fact, research shows that eczema accounts for up to half of all skin problems in pregnant women. Between 20 and 40 percent of women with eczema during pregnancy have had this condition beforehand. The rest experience this skin condition for the first time while they’re pregnant. The good news is that there are several simple ways for pregnant women to find relief from eczema. Putting the following tips to use can help ease itchiness, dryness, and other symptoms of this condition, so you can enjoy a more comfortable pregnancy.
What Symptoms Can You Expect with Eczema in Pregnancy?
When you have pregnancy eczema, the symptoms you have can range from mild to severe. These symptoms can change in severity at different times when you’re pregnant. For many women, symptoms first appear at some point during the first or second trimester. The symptoms of eczema during pregnancy are the same as regular eczema, which can include any the following:
- Dry skin
- Itchiness in affected areas that might become worse at night
- Tiny bumps or pustules that sometimes leak clear fluid and become crusty if you scratch them
- Patches of grayish-brown or reddish skin on certain parts of your body, such as your hands and feet, upper chest, the bend of your knees or elbows, neck, or eyelids
- Scaly or cracked skin in affected areas with a thickened or rough appearance
- Swelling and increased sensitivity in affected areas that have been scratched frequently
While eczema symptoms can show up for the first time in some pregnant women, those who already deal with eczema can end up having more severe symptoms than usual. This happens in more than 50 percent of pregnant women with pre-existing eczema, especially during the second trimester. For roughly 25 percent or a quarter of women who have pre-existing eczema, their symptoms actually improve during pregnancy. Around 10 percent of women with pre-existing eczema have a flare-up right after pregnancy.
What Causes Pregnancy Eczema?
It’s normal to experience some skin changes during pregnancy. As your hormone levels shift while you’re pregnant, you might develop skin problems, such as:
- Skin rashes
- Sensitive skin
- Oily skin
- Dry skin
- Skin pigmentation changes
If you normally have eczema, the exact reason why this skin condition occurs isn’t fully known. However, having a family history of eczema or related conditions, such as hay fever or asthma, is considered a factor in your risk of developing this condition. When you’re exposed to certain allergens in your environment, such as specific chemicals, this can trigger eczema symptoms.
Eczema can occur during pregnancy due to hormonal changes involving estrogen and its effects on your immune system. Immune cells known as Th1-dominant cells normally protect you from bacteria and other harmful germs that try to get into your body’s other cells. During pregnancy, your immune system switches to using Th2-dominant cells instead in order to keep your growing baby safe. These immune cells focus on destroying allergens and other potentially harmful particles that move around outside your other cells. This change makes you more vulnerable to allergens or other triggers that cause eczema symptoms.
Researchers have found that the increased amount of estrogen produced during pregnancy is linked to this change from Th1-dominant cells to Th2-dominant cells. While this change to your immune system is an important part of making sure your baby is able to grow and thrive in the womb, it can also cause you to experience eczema symptoms.
Tips for Managing Pregnancy Eczema
You can keep eczema symptoms under control and ease the itchiness and discomfort they cause in a few different ways. Some of the things you can do to manage this condition during pregnancy include the following:
- Moisturize your skin frequently, including right after showering or bathing. We recommend the Eczema Honey Skin-Soothing Cream as a daily moisturizer for face and body.
- Avoid using scented or fragranced products, including laundry detergents and body sprays, since these can irritate eczema symptoms.
- Avoid using products containing harsh ingredients that can irritate your skin. Our Eczema Honey line contains gentle, non-toxic ingredients formulated eczema-prone skin.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day in order to stay hydrated
- Take short, warm showers
- Limit the amount of time you spend in water, such as pools and baths, since this can dry out your skin more
- Keep your body as cool as possible with loose, comfortable clothing to avoid getting sweaty or overheated, which can make eczema symptoms worse
- Apply a cool compress to affected areas that are itchy instead of scratching your skin
- Manage stress through meditation, deep breathing, or similar techniques, which can help relieve eczema symptoms or lower the risk of flare-ups
- Avoid foods that trigger your eczema symptoms or make them worse, but talk to your doctor before making any dietary changes
Although eczema can be unpleasant, there are plenty of ways to manage it effectively. Keep in mind that pregnant women should use natural or non-toxic products only for safety purposes. If you’re thinking of taking any type of medication, supplements, or herbal products for eczema relief, talk to your doctor first to make sure they’re safe for you and your baby.