Eczema during pregnancy (“atopic eruption of pregnancy“) is very common.  It’s the number one question we get asked daily by expectant mums is:  How do I get some soothing relief from my itching skin during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your body undergoes a unique multitude of changes from metabolic, immunologic and hormonal readjustments and your skin is no exception to this rule. With so much change, it might be easy to overlook the start of a new rash or a few itchy bumps. However, these may be the start of a skin condition that can affect your pregnancy in more ways than one.

Skin changes during pregnancy may be physiological. However, some dermatoses are specific to pregnancy, while others are altered by pregnancy. These changes occur as a result of an interaction of multiple factors in the body during pregnancy.

What causes Atopic eruption of pregnancy (AEP)?

Atopic eruption of pregnancy (AEP) is a general term that includes three conditions which are specific to pregnancy include:

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Prurigo of pregnancy
  • Pruritic folliculitis of pregnancy

Atopic eruption of pregnancy encompasses atopic eczema, purging of pregnancy, and pruritic folliculitis of pregnancy making up about half of all skin conditions diagnosed during pregnancy.   In atopic eczema, the eczematous lesions appear during the first or second trimester. In the majority, lesions are in flexures-atopic sites, and in remaining, about one-third of the lesions are distributed to the trunk and limbs. In prurigo of pregnancy, groups of excoriated papules are seen in the limbs and trunk. In pruritic folliculitis of pregnancy, occurring in the second or third trimester, erythematous follicular papules resembling steroid induced acne are seen.

What triggers it?

Eczema is as individual as the person who has it, and it can be a long and involved process to find out exactly what your triggers are and eliminate them.

Some people have contact dermatitissoaps, fragrances, synthetic fabrics, dyes, dust, or other things irritate the skin when contact is made. Others have atopic dermatitis–something irritates your skin, but it’s not as easy as changing laundry detergents or using unscented soap, but they can help to reduce the flare-ups.  People with atopic dermatitis may have a sensitivity to a food, an environmental allergen, or a change in the weather; or perhaps those wild hormones of pregnancy (growing a little human) just cause their skin to rebel and retaliate with inflammation and itching.

You may be more likely to develop Atopic eruption of pregnancy (AEP) if you have:
•sensitive skin that is easily irritated
•allergic rhinitis, including house dust mite allergy and hay fever
•a food allergy

Signs and symptoms?

An outbreak of AEP can be extremely itchy and usually appears on your arms, legs, or torso. Eczema is often characterized by red, scaly patches, small bumps, or flaky skin. Pruritic folliculitis looks like tiny, pimple-like bumps, and prurigo of pregnancy may look like small bug bites at first.  Your doctor will be able to diagnose by appearance alone.

5 Tips for Improving your Pregnancy Eczema?

First up, it sounds like we are pointing out the obvious but: Don’t Scratch!  Do your best not to scratch because it can irritate your skin further and increase the risk of skin infections and damage your fragile skin. Scratching the rash makes it itch worse.

Here are five simple tips can give you relief for your itchy, dry, stretched skin:

  • Apply cold packs. Put an ice pack or a cool, wet compress on itchy areas for five to 10 minutes, or until the itch fades. We all know that words cannot describe how soothing an ice-cold towel feels on inflamed skin whether it’s itchy, skin burnt or it’s a scorcher of a day outside – it’s heavenly!
  • Moisturise daily. In general, expectant women should moisturise their skin about two to three times a day.  It’s critical in helping to repair the skin which when you scratch it, breaks down the skin barrier not allowing the skin to hold moisture. This leads to drier skin, which leads to more itching, and the cycle of inflammation continues.   So, slather on a fragrance-free body lotion or cream after you take a shower or bath. Keeping your Body Lotion the fridge is a great tip so that moisturising your skin is also cooling.
  • Take an occasional warm (avoid hot baths and showers) oatmeal bath. You can buy commercially prepared oatmeal baths at the pharmacy or you can make your own.  Oatmeal is very soothing for the skin.  You can also mix up the oatmeal and pop it into the fridge to cool then apply it like a mask to your belly.
  • Wear light cotton clothing. Look for 100% cotton or other natural fabric alternatives, which allow the skin to breathe.  Also, consider your bed sheets – we spend a lot of time sleeping against fabrics that can irritate sensitive skins.
  • Drink enough water: water is important for healthy skin, but too much can be a bad thing. Water doesn’t directly hydrate your skin, either–dry skin is not necessarily a sign you’re dehydrated. Drink an amount that keeps you well hydrated (you may need more during pregnancy).

What can I do, now and in the future?

Pregnancy eczema does not disappear overnight after the little one has been born.  It can take up to 6 weeks for any rash to clear (this is unique to each individuals birth and postpartum journey), and it can continue as your hormones adjust or if you stop breastfeeding.

Our Manuka Biotic Recommendations

Thick in texture and rich in emollients, the Manuka Biotic Body Lotion moisturises even the driest of skin, creates an effective barrier, reduces inflammation, and fights bacteria. Organic New Zealand Manuka Oil, known for its amazing healing powers, is combined with organic, tree, nut-free oils to create this gentle, nourishing manuka oil product that will not irritate the skin. Our Manuka Biotic Body Lotion is a surprisingly soft and creamy balm,  that’s excellent for healing open wounds and soothing irritated eczema skin.


Want to know more?

There’s a lot you can do to relieve symptoms if your pregnancy eczema gets worse.  Check out the following websites for further information and support groups on how you can treat and prevent the condition. Remember, your health provider will be able to treat you with assessing and treating your symptoms.

This is especially important now because some conditions that cause itchy skin during pregnancy can affect your baby’s well-being and require special monitoring or treatment. For example, severe itching without a rash can be a symptom of cholestasis of pregnancy.



New Zealand Eczema Association New Zealand

This organisation has an excellent website. A full list of eczema facts, forums, blogs, education and a support line, to help improve the lives of people living with eczema.

Australia Eczema Association Australasia

The leading professional organisation in Australasia providing comprehensive resources and a support line, to improve the lives of people living with eczema.

United Kingdom  The National  Eczema Society

Dedicated to the needs of people with eczema, dermatitis and sensitive skin, the organisation is an excellent source of support and information.

For further information talk to your doctor.

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