Eczema during pregnancy: What to know
Eczema is an umbrella term for several skin conditions that cause redness, itchiness, and inflammation. People of all ages can get eczema, from infants to older adults.
While the symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable, eczema is not dangerous to the baby, and it is not contagious.
Pregnancy effects eczema differently from person to person. While around 25 percent of women will see an improvement in their symptoms, more than 50 percent will notice that their symptoms become worse.
Even if eczema improves during pregnancy, some women find that their eczema flares up again after childbirth.
Eczema is very common during pregnancy, but it is still important or a person to mention symptoms to the doctor. Sometimes, the itching and skin discomfort can be similar to other, more serious conditions.
Eczema may cause itchy, sensitive skin and oozing or crusty patches.
The symptoms of eczema can include:
- itchy skin
- dark colored patches on the skin
- rough or scaly patches that can ooze or crust
- skin that is dry, sensitive, red, or inflamed
Some women have all of these symptoms, while others may have only a few. Also, the symptoms can vary in severity.
Some women have severe symptoms that prevent them from doing some everyday activities, while others find that their symptoms are very mild and not bothersome.
Treating eczema during pregnancy can be challenging because many of the medications can harm the developing fetus.
There are several safe options, however, including:
- Mild to moderate topical steroids: It appears that mild to moderate steroid creams are safe to use during pregnancy. When applied to the affected skin, they can help relieve itching and other symptoms.
- Ultraviolet B: Some research has shown that UVB light has helped to reduce the symptoms of eczema, especially when steroids have not been effective. Similarly to topical steroids, UVB light is safe for pregnant women.
When these treatments are not effective, there are other options, including:
- strong topical steroids
- oral steroids
- cyclosporine and other medications that suppress the immune system
Before starting any of these medications, it is important to have a detailed discussion with a doctor about the risks and benefits of taking them during pregnancy.
Some medicine should be completely avoided by pregnant women, including methotrexate, psoralens plus UVA (PUVA), and Toctino (alitretinoin).
If a woman already has eczema and becomes pregnant, it is important for her to speak with a doctor about the medication she is taking as soon as possible.
Moisturizing regularly using scent-free products may ease eczema symptoms.
Home remedies can be very effective in managing some of the discomforts associated with eczema.
Some home remedies a person can try include:
- Moisturizing: Regularly using moisturizers and emollients is crucial when treating eczema. Choose a gentle, scent-free, and hypoallergenic lotion.
- Taking warm showers: Hot showers can dry out the skin. Switch to lukewarm water instead, and moisturize immediately after getting out of the shower or bath.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing: Avoid wearing anything that is too tight or form-fitting. Tight clothing can hold in heat and irritate the skin. A person can also choose natural fibers, such as cotton.
- Avoiding harsh soaps or cleansers: These products can aggravate eczema. Switch to organic and gentle ones that are hypoallergenic. In addition to soap and body washes, a person with eczema may also wish to use gentler detergents, makeup products, and perfumes.
- Staying hydrated: In addition to being healthy for the body and growing baby, drinking enough water is essential for good skin health. It keeps skin soft and can reduce the symptoms of eczema.
Some women choose to use natural remedies to control their symptoms, including:
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer emollient and is known to reduce inflammation. It can be used as a lotion and applied directly to the irritated or itchy skin.
- Dietary changes: Some foods can increase inflammation in the body, including the skin. If a woman wishes to use dietary changes to prevent eczema flare-ups, eliminating dairy and gluten may be a good place to start. Also, eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods is good advice for anyone, particularly pregnant women.
- Probiotics: There are healthy strains of bacteria all over the body, including the skin and gut. Taking probiotics may help to prevent eczema in some pregnant women, although more research is needed to confirm this link.
Some eczema medication may not be appropriate for those trying to conceive or already pregnant.
Eczema does not affect fertility, but some of the medications for the condition may be dangerous during pregnancy.
Doctors may even recommend stopping certain eczema medications if a woman is trying to get pregnant.
These drugs include:
- Methotrexate: Both men and women should stop taking methotrexate for at least 3 months before trying to conceive.
- Psoralens plus UVA (PUVA): This medication may cause problems during pregnancy, so a woman should speak with her doctor and stop taking the medication beforehand.
- Toctino (alitretinoin): A woman should be off this drug for at least 1 month before getting pregnant.
For some women, eczema flare-ups continue after childbirth. Other women develop eczema on or around the breast and nipple, particularly if the woman is breast-feeding.
Moisturizers and mild to moderate steroids are usually used to treat the symptoms. It is important to wash off the medicine before the baby has its next feeding.
Though uncomfortable, eczema during pregnancy is not dangerous for either mom or her baby.
There are many treatment options, but it is essential for pregnant women or those trying to conceive to speak to a doctor about which options are safe.