Eczema During Pregnancy
A number of visitors to this site have asked what they can do to
control eczema during pregnancy. Some women see their eczema
suddenly flare and want to know if there is anything they can do to
treat it. Others are concerned about continuing to use medication
while pregnant or nursing. Here’s what dermatologists recommend.
Talk with a dermatologist before continuing to use eczema
medication. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not
use eczema medication before discussing this with a dermatologist or
obstetrician. Some medications can cause birth defects or harm a
nursing child. For this reason, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) requires that all medication be classified
according to its potential effects on a pregnancy. Some medication
is safe to use during pregnancy; others should be stopped. Some
medication should not be used while nursing. A dermatologist can
help a woman weigh the risks and benefits of the medications and
other eczema treatment options.
Communicate openly with the dermatologist. While
dermatologists are the experts when it comes to weighing the risks
and benefits of each treatment option for eczema, you know best how
the eczema is affecting your life. For example, if the eczema is
keeping you awake at night or interfering with your life in any
other way, be sure to tell your dermatologist. Open communication
can help the dermatologist develop a treatment plan that best meets
Consult a dermatologist or obstetrician before trying any remedy
advertised as “herbal” or “all natural.” While “all natural” or
“herbal” may sound like a safe alternative to medication, some of
these products have proven extremely harmful, even lethal. The FDA
cautions women not to take any herbal product before consulting a
healthcare provider. Some of these products have been linked to
miscarriage, premature birth, and even birth defects. Others can
harm the mother’s health.
Follow a skin-care plan designed specifically for skin with
eczema. Taking good care of your skin while pregnant and
nursing can minimize flare-ups. Good skin care practices for a
person with eczema include:
Avoiding hot water. The water should not feel hot nor redden
the skin because hot water dries skin. Dry, irritated skin can cause
a flare-up or worsen existing eczema.
Taking short lukewarm showers or baths. A lukewarm shower or
bath once a day for 5 to 10 minutes can hydrate skin effectively.
Staying in the water longer can dry the skin. For best results, be
sure to apply moisturizer within 2 to 3 minutes of bathing.
Using a gentle cleanser. A recent survey found that 29% of
adults living with atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, say they do
not use a cleanser. For anyone who has eczema, a gentle cleanser is
essential. It is vital that dirt, bacteria, and other substances be
washed away without causing further irritation. When looking for a
cleanser, be sure to select one that is free of fragrances,
antibacterial agents, and other chemicals that can irritate the
skin. Cleansers should not be used on skin that has flared as even
the mildest cleanser can be quite irritating.
Eliminating washcloths, mesh sponges, and similar products.
Dermatologists recommend that their patients with eczema avoid all
products that rub, scrub, or exfoliate the skin. This irritates the
already sensitive skin and can cause a flare-up. To wash,
dermatologists recommend using your fingertips to gently apply the
cleanser and using your hands to gently rinse.
Moisturizing frequently. Dermatologists consider moisturizer
the first line of defense when treating eczema because it can help
relieve dry skin and the associated itch. Moisturizer should be
applied immediately after bathing, hand washing, and as needed to
keep the skin moist.
Grab a cool compress to relieve that itch. Scratching can
lead to infection. Applying a cool — not cold — compress can help
lessen the itch.
Reduce stress. Decreasing stress can be a challenge,
especially with the anticipation of a baby. However, finding ways to
unwind are essential during pregnancy. Research shows that stress
can increase the risk of a pre-mature birth, delivering a
low-birth-weight baby, as well as the child developing learning and
behavioral problems. Stress also exacerbates eczema.
Know your triggers and take extra steps to avoid them. Do you
know what causes your eczema to flare? If not, a dermatologist can
help you identify everyday activities and objects that may trigger
your eczema. Some common triggers are fragrances, immersing your
hands in water often or for long periods of time, bubble bath,
laundry detergents, wool, and pet fur. However, different people
have different triggers, so it is important to learn what triggers
your eczema and avoid those objects and activities.
Try to avoid sweating and overheating. These are common
triggers that can cause itching and lead to scratching and
Wear clothing made of cotton or another fabric that feels smooth
to the touch. Wool and other fabrics that feel rough to the
touch often irritate the skin and can trigger a flare-up. Cotton,
cotton-blends, and other fabrics that feel smooth to the touch
usually make skin feel better.
Get regular medical checkups. Regular checkups with your
obstetrician play an important role during each and every pregnancy.
Women who have eczema should be sure to tell their obstetrician.
Skin affected by eczema is more susceptible to infection, and it is
important that any skin infection that develops during pregnancy be
If you want specific medical advice about how to treat your eczema
during pregnancy or while nursing, be sure to see a dermatologist.
By considering a number of factors, such as your overall health and
the trimester of your pregnancy, a dermatologist can develop a
treatment plan to help you effectively manage your eczema. This may
include identifying your triggers and providing you with a skin-care
Berson D. “Recommendation of Moisturizers and Cleansers: A Study of
Unmet Needs Among Dermatology Patients.” Cutis. 2005
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developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Some women see their eczema clear when they become
pregnant; others experience dramatic flares during