EczemaNet Article
Treating 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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 your needs.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  1. Grab a cool compress to relieve that itch. Scratching can lead to infection. Applying a cool — not cold — compress can help lessen the itch.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Try to avoid sweating and overheating. These are common triggers that can cause itching and lead to scratching and flare-ups.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 properly treated.

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 plan.

Berson D. “Recommendation of Moisturizers and Cleansers: A Study of Unmet Needs Among Dermatology Patients.” Cutis. 2005 December;76(6S):3-6.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

Some women see their eczema clear when they become pregnant; others experience dramatic flares during pregnancy.

You will find more tips that can help you avoid outbreaks at Preventing Flare-Ups.





© American Academy of Dermatology, 2010  All rights reserved.

Page last updated 3/2/06

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