Eczema during pregnancy

Hormone changes that occur in pregnancy inevitably affect the skin. Some women find their eczema gets worse, while others find it completely clears. During the later stages of pregnancy, women may find their skin is especially itchy and uncomfortable.

Pregnant woman lying on grass

It is safe to use emollients before and during pregnancy. Pay particular attention to moisturising the nipples to avoid cracking and soreness later on during breastfeeding. Mild to moderate topical steroids are considered fine to use in pregnancy to control patches of eczema, if used under your doctor’s supervision. If your eczema fails to respond to these, ask to be referred to a dermatologist, who may be able to prescribe a more potent topical steroid.

Antihistamines should only be used if supervised by a skin specialist. Medicines, whether prescribed by a healthcare professional or bought over the counter, can have a harmful effect on the fetus, especially during the first trimester. Doctors generally advise that all medicines are avoided during pregnancy, if at all possible.

Equally important is the fact that stopping medication and topical treatments without consulting your doctor first could have adverse effects on your skin. It is therefore important to seek advice before you try to conceive, or as soon as you realise you are pregnant if the pregnancy is unplanned.

Breastfeeding and eczema treatments

If you are breastfeeding, you may develop eczema of the areola or nipple. Emollients and mild to moderate potency topical steroids are generally used to treat eczema in this area. They should be applied after breastfeeding and topical steroids should be washed off thoroughly before the next feed. You should also ask your doctor if you can breastfeed while on certain medications.

For more information on pregnancy and eczema, read an article from our magazine, Exchange