Body itching is a common experience among pregnant women, but itchy feet in pregnancy may be a symptom of a serious condition called obstetric cholestasis. This condition is accompanied byextreme itchiness of the feet and hands, especially at night. Unlike itchiness that accompanies normal stretching of the skin during pregnancy, this condition may affect your liver and your baby's health. Read on to find out whether your condition requires medical attention.

Can Itchy Feet During Pregnancy Be Serious?

Itchy skin alone is common during pregnancy and it is usually a benign (not serious) condition. However, if itchiness occurs in the hands and feet during the third trimester and is accompanied by unusual symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fatigue and loss of appetite, it may be more than just a skin problem.

One common complication of itchy feet during pregnancy can be cholestasis—a condition that impairs digestive fluid from the liver. It usually comes with darkening of urine color and lightening of stool color. Excess bile in the blood can be toxic to your baby and may increase his risk of being born prematurely or inhaling his own stool (meconium) during birth, leading to breathing difficulties. Fetal death is also a risk that can happen, so your doctor may opt to induce labor early to avoid potential complications for your baby.

Besides, cholestasis may cause poor absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K (fat-soluble vitamins), which may resolve after the child's birth. However, cholestasis can also lead to dangerous complications, with a high risk of recurrence in your future pregnancies.

Why Do I Have Itchy Feet During Pregnancy?

Areas of the body where skin is stretched during pregnancy, such as the belly, thighs, and feet, can become itchy, but cause no trouble. However, a medical condition called cholestasis may occur if a pregnant woman has itchy feet accompanied by intense itching on the palms, dark-colored urine, light-colored stools, yellowish eyes and skin.

The exact cause of cholestasis in pregnancy is not clear, but experts suspect it is caused by hormonal changes triggered by pregnancy. It causes bile (a yellow-green digestive fluid) to accumulate, instead of flowing into the intestines from the liver. Bile is produced in the liver, but if its flow to the intestines is obstructed, it can enter the bloodstream and cause the unusual symptoms mentioned, including itchy feet in pregnancy. Also, this condition may also be due to some genetic factors. Some cases show that the cholestasis in pregnancy can spread through a family.

How to Relieve Itchy Feet During Pregnancy

The diagnosis of obstetric cholestasis is confirmed from laboratory tests showing abnormal liver function test results. Your doctor will monitor your blood tests regularly as well as your baby's condition all throughout pregnancy.

1. Safe Lotions

Soothing lotions can help to relieve itching. Since some oral medications may not be safe to use to cure itchy feet during pregnancy, you may be advised to use topical products likecalamine lotion to relieve your itching hands and feet.

2. Supplements

Cholestasis may reduce your ability to absorb certain nutrients, so you may be given supplements, such as vitamin K, which is essential to blood clotting. Cholestasis of pregnancy is quite treatable and you may be advised to use the ursodeoxycholic acid, a pill that absorbs excess bile and prevents it from entering the baby's bloodstream, at the same time relieving itchy skin.

3. Labor Induction

An early induction of labor may be needed before your baby reaches full-term (37 weeks), if your condition of itchy feet is severe. However, if your baby makes it to term without harm and his lungs have fully developed, your doctor will decide whether it is safer for him to stay inside or outside the womb.

4. Medical Tests to Monitor

The doctor will order weekly lab tests to ensure that your liver enzymes are improving, as well as non-stress tests to monitor your baby's well-being. Bi-weekly sonograms may be done to make sure your baby is growing and his lungs are working well.

What Others Say About Itchy Feet During Pregnancy

Rosie has experienced:

"I was about 32 weeks pregnant when I experienced severe itching of the feet one night. It feels like little red ants are crawling under your skin! The itchiness also affected my body from the head to the arms, but my feet were most severely affected.

I decided to research about my symptoms online. Many people believe that itching could only be a manifestation of allergies. Although very few websites discussed obstetric cholestasis, I found that excess bile in the blood can be toxic to the baby. So I called my doctor the next day and after doing some tests to confirm the diagnosis, he treated and monitored me and my baby until I gave birth to a healthy child."

Ellen says:

"At first, I noticed my skin to be turning yellow and my urine becoming very dark in color. Then I had severe itching of the feet and hands, which drove me crazy especially at night! I went to my doctor after one week, and after taking some blood tests, he said that since I was already almost 37 weeks pregnant, it would be better if I went into induced labor. He explained that my baby would be safer outside my womb because of the toxins in my body caused by cholestasis. I am so grateful that my doctor made a quick decision to deliver my baby, who was born just 5 pounds 6 ounces in good health. I would advise mothers-to-be to be extra careful about strange symptoms during pregnancy and to consult their doctors immediately for the sake of their babies."

Julia has just gone through:

"The itchy feet during pregnancy happened to me when I was pregnant with my first baby. The itching was so bad that I wanted to cry. I told my midwife about it and she recommended getting blood tests. Fortunately, I was on my 38th week, so inducing labor was not a problem. Now my baby is 6 months old and it seems like nothing bad ever happened."