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What Is Prurigo Gestationis?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Prurigo gestationis, or prurigo of pregnancy (PP), is a skin condition that occurs during pregnancy. It results in red, very itchy bumps forming on the abdomen, legs, arms, and buttocks. The condition’s cause is not clear and it needs to be differentiated from other skin conditions that are more severe. Though PP is uncomfortable, it does not cause harm to the mother or the fetus. Moreover, it tends to respond well to simple treatments and will usually resolve completely soon after a pregnancy’s end.

Sometimes doctors classify prurigo gestationis as having an early or late onset. Early onset begins in the second trimester at about 20 weeks, while late appearance of PP could happen at about 34-35 weeks. In truth, PP may occur any time after the 20th week, and is most likely to happen between 25-35 weeks.

When the condition emerges, small red bumps, usually no more than 0.2-0.4 inches (0.5-1 cm) in diameter tend to develop on the belly. They may be profuse and spread to other parts of the body. The bumps are characterized by their pruritic or itchy nature. Their greatest risk is that they may cause the affected person to scratch them, which might result in skin infection.

Doctors are unclear why prurigo gestationis occurs, and they often diagnose the disorder by ruling out more serious skin conditions that are associated with pregnancy. For example, pemphigoid or herpes gestationis results in itchy blisters, and is thought to be an autoimmune condition. With treatment, it may also resolve, but it is clinically important to note because it can recur in future pregnancies. PP should further be distinguished from warts or skin lesions caused by viruses or infections that may pose more danger to the fetus.

As stated, the condition is usually easy to treat. Topical corticosteroids may help with itching and inflammation, and are of little risk to the fetus. Several different oral antihistamines are also safe to use during pregnancy and may cause a reduction in itchy sensations. Additionally, the disease is almost always limited to pregnancy and tends to resolve within a few weeks or months after it. Most women recover fully within a month after pregnancy ends, and it is extremely rare for PP to continue after three months postpartum.

Even though prurigo gestationis is not a serious illness, doctors advise pregnant women to report any type of skin rash during pregnancy. It’s further recommended that women who are pregnant not attempt to treat a rash without first getting medical diagnosis and advice. Not all treatments, even over the counter ones, are safe for pregnant moms or their babies.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By SimpleByte — On Feb 14, 2014

@Ceptorbi, rashes in pregnancy seem to be common. Herpes gestationis, which ironically does not involve the herpes virus, is a blistering rash that occurs during pregnancy. Mothers-to-be with this condition can experience skin breakdown and kidney damage. Treatment involves the use of corticosteroids, and it's important to get this rash treated right away because of the possible complications the mother can have.

By Ceptorbi — On Feb 13, 2014

Another itchy rash pregnant women may develop is called pruritic uticartial pupules and plaques of pregnancy, which is also called PUPPP. It typically occurs during the last trimester and does not harm mother or baby. It begins on the abdomen and can spread to the thighs, arms, breasts and other areas. Fortunately, it resolves itself and disappears soon after delivery. Treatment is similar to the treatments for prurigo gestationis.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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