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So you're handling morning sickness like a champ, and nausea has just about become part of your daily life now.
Suddenly pregnancy's lesser-known first-trimester symptom creeps in and you can't seem to find relief from itchy breasts and nipples. Itchy skin is a common symptom that many women experience during pregnancy, and most of the time it's totally harmless.
We've got some tips and tricks to relieve some of that annoying breast itching, and the signs you need to look out for that signal that you should call your doctor.
Pregnancy can definitely be overwhelming at times, but our guide on how to grow a baby from week one of pregnancy might help. And you might want to check out this piece on whether you can eat goat's cheese whilst pregnant to know what is safe and what isn't during this exciting time.
There are many different reasons that you might be experiencing itchy or sensitive nipples while you're pregnant.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnancy can cause eczema, and one of the main symptoms is itchy and cracked nipples. The skin around your nipples can become dry or even develop small cracks. The itching sensation can be especially intense during the first trimester when hormones are at their peak levels and your breasts are swelling. You might have pregnancy-induced eczema if you can see dry and scaly patches on the skin of your breast, and in different places on your body. This is the most common skin condition you can experience during pregnancy.
The most likely reason your skin is feeling itchy is because of hormonal changes. One of the body's methods of preparing for labor is a significant increase in progesterone production. Progesterone is responsible for increasing the blood flow to both your breasts and uterus. Blood flow increases towards your breasts because it needs to prepare for your milk ducts to expand and grow in size. This increased blood flow can cause swelling and may cause slight skin irritation to occur around the areolas, better known as dry breast skin or nipple eczema.
Therefore you might be experiencing pain or itching is an increase in the amount of blood in your breasts. This causes swelling and an increase in size and is good news as it means that your milk ducts are developing nicely. It's uncomfortable, however, when your nipples become rough and dry due to swelling, which makes them itchy.
As your breasts and body grow, your skin stretches to accommodate the fast weight gain. This can cause stretch marks on your breasts and belly which are often itchy and painful.
Prurigo is an immune system response to the huge changes that your body is going through during pregnancy. It usually looks like little bumps on your skin around your breast area, or other parts of your body, which can be itchy. This condition doesn't have a cure and can last up until you give birth.
If you notice an itchy rash under your breasts, this could be intertrigo, which is caused by the heat, moisture, and friction underneath your growing breasts. This is more likely if you're experiencing hot weather, and can cause the skin to crack and itch.
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is not only a mouthful to say, is but also a common cause of pregnancy itches. You might notice hives on your skin around your belly and breasts, which doctors actually don't know how to treat. PUPPP should go away naturally as your body changes.
There are many tried and tested ways to provide relief for yourself if your nipples are itchy, or you're experiencing sore nipples in early pregnancy.
First, try to wear loose-fitting clothing, such as a t-shirt, and avoid wearing a bra or other undergarments that rub against your breasts if you can. If your clothing is too tight, it will restrict the blood flow to your nipples and this will intensify the itching and dryness.
Applying cool compresses to your breasts may help relieve itching as well. Just be careful not to let the compress get too cold or wet as this can cause a different set of issues such as frostbite or chill bumps that are equally uncomfortable!
As you sleep at night, make sure you use a light blanket to keep the air around your breasts from getting too cold.
Ditch the over-the-counter medications. There are several over-the-counter medications that are often used to treat nipple eczema but the first thing you need to do is consult a doctor as these medications have not been approved for use in pregnant women. If you wish to try these medications, ask your doctor about safer alternatives such as nipple cream.
Apply synthetic lactation ointment around your nipples and also in between your breasts. There are a number of synthetic ointment products available that can be used while pregnant that will relieve the itching sensation on your nipples that makes them itchy and rough.
You can try massaging cocoa butter into your breasts and nipples to make sure your breast skin is moist and to relieve any itching that comes from dryness. Cocoa butter is believed by some people to help prevent stretch marks too, though there's been limited research done.
Putting petroleum jelly on your nipples could also be a good way to relieve the itchy dryness of your nipples. Try to let it dry before putting on a bra.
If you notice that your nipples become itchy and dry during pregnancy, pay attention to any changes in thickness or soreness or changes in color that you notice on the skin. Make sure you also pay attention to the rest of your body, to check for any signs of inflammation or illness. While itchy nipples might not be indicative of a problem with your pregnancy, it is just one symptom that you should keep an eye on.
One of the more dangerous conditions that could be causing itchy breasts and nipples is cholestasis, which is a condition of the liver. You'll typically notice it in the second trimester or third trimester as unbearable itching without any rash. This is a sign that your liver isn't working properly, and you may have to deliver your baby early to avoid complications.
Your itchy nipples could also be a sign of a yeast infection, so it's best to see your doctor to test if this is the case. You can identify a yeast infection by stinging nipple pain and itching, and dry flaky skin around your nipples. You'll probably need prescription medication to get rid of the infection, so make sure you get it checked out if you think something's wrong.
When we think about problems with our breasts, we can often jump to breast cancer as a worst-case scenario. It is very unlikely that your nipple and breast itches are symptoms of breast cancer, but it is a good idea for you to get checked out with your doctor if you are worried at all.
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