Prurigo of Pregnancy

Overview

What is prurigo of pregnancy?

Prurigo of pregnancy (also called papular dermatitis of pregnancy) is a rash that causes itchy, discolored bumps on your skin. It doesn’t typically cause any complications for you or your unborn baby. It can begin any time during your pregnancy but usually develops in the second or third trimester. It may continue for several months postpartum. Your healthcare provider can diagnose prurigo of pregnancy and recommend treatment based on your symptoms.

What does prurigo of pregnancy look like?

Prurigo of pregnancy rash looks like small bug bites, acne or pimples on your skin. These bumps can be crusty or scaly. Prurigo rash spots are shades of pink, red or purple. Some may contain hair follicles and be extremely itchy and uncomfortable. The spots you get from prurigo of pregnancy can be as small as the tip of a pencil or as wide as the eraser at the top of a pencil. They often cluster together in groups.

Where does prurigo of pregnancy start?

Prurigo of pregnancy tends to show up on the backs of your elbows or knees (on the skin around joints or folds of skin) but can also occur on the shoulders, arms, legs and belly.

How common is prurigo of pregnancy?

Prurigo of pregnancy occurs in 1 in 300 pregnancies. It can start at any time in pregnancy but is most commonly reported in the second and third trimesters (between 13 and 40 weeks). Prurigo of pregnancy often continues for weeks after your baby is born.

What’s the difference between prurigo and PUPPP rash during pregnancy?

Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is the most common type of pregnancy rash. It occurs in 1 in 160 pregnancies. You may be at an increased risk if you’re expecting twins, triplets or more. PUPP rash also causes itchy, discolored bumps or patches on the skin. PUPP rash tends to occur on areas of your skin that are very stretched during pregnancy, such as your abdomen, butt or thighs. PUPP rash is most commonly diagnosed in the last months of pregnancy. Prurigo of pregnancy can occur anywhere on the body. Both conditions don’t pose any risk to the fetus.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of prurigo in pregnancy?

Prurigo of pregnancy causes small, discolored bumps on our skin. These bumps may:

  • Be very itchy.
  • Be red, pink or purple.
  • Be crusty or scaly.
  • Resemble bug bites or pimples.
  • Cluster together and cover large areas of your body.

What causes prurigo during pregnancy?

Healthcare experts aren’t sure what causes prurigo of pregnancy. It doesn’t cause any complications, and people continue to have healthy pregnancies despite having the condition. Some research suggests that prurigo is related to:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is prurigo during pregnancy diagnosed?

Healthcare providers diagnose prurigo of pregnancy during a physical exam. Take note of your symptoms and when they first started. Your healthcare provider may order urine or blood tests to rule out other conditions such as cholestasis of pregnancy or an autoimmune condition.

Management and Treatment

How do doctors treat prurigo during pregnancy?

Treatment for prurigo of pregnancy may involve:

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medication or applying anything to your skin.

What helps with prurigo in pregnancy symptoms?

Your healthcare provider can prescribe or recommend medications to relieve your symptoms. Some things you can do to help your symptoms of prurigo of pregnancy are:

  • Apply unscented lotion or moisturizer several times a day.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t irritate your skin.
  • Wear clothes made of natural fibers like cotton or silk.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations on how to relieve your symptoms.

Prevention

How can I reduce my risk of prurigo of pregnancy?

There isn’t anything you can do to reduce your risk of prurigo during pregnancy. If you have other skin conditions like eczema, you may be at higher risk of prurigo during pregnancy.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have prurigo during pregnancy?

Prurigo of pregnancy usually goes away soon after your baby is born. However, some people continue to have a rash or itchy skin for several weeks postpartum. If you plan on having more children, prurigo of pregnancy may show up in future pregnancies. Work with your healthcare provider on managing your symptoms so that you can be as comfortable as possible until the rash goes away.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any changes in your skin during pregnancy. This includes new rashes, itchy or painful rashes or signs of infection (like pus-filled bumps). Some rashes and skin conditions are unique to pregnancy because of all the changes your body goes through. In most cases, skin conditions aren’t harmful, but it’s a good idea to have it checked out just in case.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Prurigo of pregnancy is a harmless rash that goes away shortly after your baby is born. It’s always a good idea to get skin rashes or bumps looked at because they could be a sign of a more serious condition. In most cases, your healthcare provider will recommend topical creams or anti-itch medications to relieve your symptoms.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/01/2022.

References

  • American Family Physician. Pruritic Rash During Pregnancy. (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0401/p1380.html) Accessed 4/4/2022.
  • American Family Physician. Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0115/p211.html) Accessed 4/4/2022.
  • American Pregnancy Association. How to Treat Itchy Skin Naturally During Pregnancy. Accessed 4/4/2022.
  • Bergman H, Melamed N, Koren G. Pruritus in pregnancy: treatment of dermatoses unique to pregnancy. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860924/) Can Fam Physician. 2013;59(12):1290-1294. Accessed 4/4/2022.
  • Ravelli FN, Goldust M, Kroumpouzos G. Assessment of prurigo of pregnancy in patients without atopic background (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8060660/) [published correction appears in Int J Womens Dermatol. 2021 Sep 28;7(5Part B):867]. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2020;6(5):384-389. Published 2020 Jun 30. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2020.06.011. Accessed 4/4/2022.
  • Roth MM. Pregnancy dermatoses: diagnosis, management, and controversies. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21110524/) Am J Clin Dermatol. 2011 Feb 1;12(1):25-41. doi: 10.2165/11532010-000000000-00000. PMID: 21110524. Accessed 4/4/2022.

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