If you walked through a Target parking lot in Los Angeles, summer of 2012, and saw a pregnant woman with her hand down her shirt and a “scratching that itch” face . . . that was me. (Target was my spot for napping and boob itching before making the hour-long drive home from work.) My breasts — nipples especially — became so insatiably itchy during my last trimester that I was itching my upper privates anytime I wasn’t in public. When I was home, I slathered cream all over them and walked around topless. It wasn’t cute.
There are numerous reasons for the tickling-teats phenomenon:
- Hormones: Those dang hormones. As they build, they can create increasingly itchy skin, especially in the bosom.
- Stretching: As if the visual of stretch marks weren’t irritating enough, stretch marks also exaggerate itchiness, as they cause the skin to dry out. Talk about adding insult to injury!
- Eczema: The most evil of all itchy-booby culprits is pregnancy-induced eczema. This skin condition can make you feel like a body’s worth of chicken pox is condensed on your boobs. Not cool.
- Prurigo of pregnancy: As the immune system adjusts to all the changes pregnancy throws at it, itchy, bugbite-like bumps, called prurigo, might appear on the skin.
- PUPPP. Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (say that five times fast) can cause bumps or hive-like rashes anywhere from the stomach to the boobs. If the sight of it weren’t fun enough, it’s also itchy. It will go away after pregnancy.
- Intertrigo. Essentially, this is just an underboob rash caused by the three amigos heat, moisture, and friction.
- Yeast infection. While yeast infections usually just party in your pants, they occasionally make trips up north, especially during pregnancy. Its party favors are usually dry, flaky skin and possibly bright red nips. If you suspect this is what’s going on, contact your care provider.
What to do
Stick that sandpaper in your bra. Just kidding. There are kinder ways to calm the itch:
- Drink more water. Consuming your body weight in ounces of water (e.g., if you’re 140 pounds, strive for 70 ounces of water) every day will soothe many of these skin ailments, in addition to clearing up clogged bowels and a slew of other pregnancy annoyances. While this water recommendation is higher than most, it takes into account increased sweating, vomiting, and those days when you forget your water bottle.
- Consider your boob hammock. A too-tight bra or one made of synthetic material could aggravate itchiness. Opt for a bra that’s done away with underwire and dye and can grow with your expanding melons. You can even start wearing nursing bras early, as they’re often mega-comfortable. In addition, make sure your bras are made with natural fibers like cotton or bamboo, which is more comfortable than it sounds.
- Butter up your boobs. Alleviate the itch by applying shea or cocoa butter, lanolin cream, or jojoba or olive oil. Heck, straight-up butter would even help. Keep your anti-itch agent of choice in your purse so you can slather on the go. (Target parking lots are excellent for this activity.)
- Don’t itch. I hate typing that because I hate when people tell me that. But alas, people are right. While it’s heavenly in the moment, scratching often intensifies the itchies and can make skin so raw you’re then itchy and in pain. Instead of scratching, pull out that boob butter.
- Spring for organic, unscented detergent and skin products. As the chemicals in detergent, body wash, and lotion can all intensify the itch, switch to products that are organic and unscented.
- Humidify. Because dry air almost always exaggerates itchiness, moisten the air by placing a humidifier in your bedroom and any other room where you spend ample time. There are amazing portable humidifiers (about the size of a water bottle) that help ensure you’re never without a dewy draft.