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Feet Itching During Pregancy

Posted Jan 04 2011 8:00am
As the father of 10 beautiful children and currently married to a pregnant woman (baby number 11, girl number 8), I understand well from a physician perspective and a husband perspective the issues that women have with their feet during pregancy.  Itching is not a common problem in pregnancy, but can be encountered.   In fact, an understanding of the cause of this itching can help improve the comfort of the pregnant woman.  Besides, why allow them to be more uncomfortable than they should be?

Causes of Itching:


Edema:  Swelling of the feet, a common encountered problem in pregnancy, can cause to itching of the skin, but usually is alleviated by laying down or wearing compression stockings.

Varicose Veins:  Severe varicose veins (the purple veins on the feet and legs that buldge with swelling) can also cause itching.  Although the veins can't be improved without more aggressive treatments, elevation of the feet or compression stockings can help and usually resolve the itching.

Tinea Pedis:  "Athletes Foot" is a very common reason for itching of the feet.  In fact, it can be a risk for pregnancy because of inability to wash feet as easily (since the stomach gets in the way) or dry the feet effectively.  Moist, dark places (ie the feet in shoes, especially when swollen) are a great breeding ground for fungus to grow and cause athletes foot.  Once diagnosed, this can be treated effectively with topical medications with minimal risk to the infant.

Eczema:  This condition consists of rash, scaling and an associated itching of the skin.  Although not more common in pregnancy, it could be a cause of itching and can be treated with topical anti-itch treatments such as cortisone creams or benedryl treatments.

Cholestasis:  Is a rare condition consisting of severe itching (often to the hands and feet) during pregnancy, especially late stages of pregnancy.  It only presents during pregnancy and is rare (1-2 in 1000).  This condition is caused by pregnancy hormones that interact with the gallbladder and reduce the gallbladder function, resulting in slowing or stopping the flow of bile.   This is a condition that should be diagnosed and treated to reduce itching discomfort, but also allow monitoring of the growing infant to reduce risk of complications.  Symptoms may include:
  • Itching, particularly on the hands and feet (often is the only symptom noticed)
  • Dark urine color
  • Light coloring of bowel movements
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

The hope is that through careful evaluation of itching, you can alleviate one form of discomfort during pregancy and enjoy the growth of this infant inside you.
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