Pregnant women often experience vaginal itching at some point during pregnancy. This is a normal and common occurrence.
Many things can cause vaginal itching during pregnancy. Some may be the result of changes your body is going through. Other causes may not be associated with your pregnancy at all.
Read on to review the potential causes of vaginal itching during pregnancy, plus learn hands-on information about treatment and prevention.
These conditions may cause vaginal itching during pregnancy:
Bacterial vaginosis can occur if the balance between the good and bad bacteria in the vagina changes. This common vaginal infection typically happens to sexually active women, whether they're pregnant or not. Symptoms include:
- a thin, opaque or grayish discharge
- a fishlike odor, especially after sexual intercourse
In addition to bacteria, your vagina normally contains a small amount of yeast. The hormonal changes associated with pregnancy can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina, causing yeast to multiply. For this reason, yeast infections are common during pregnancy.
Symptoms can include:
- a thick vaginal discharge that has the texture of cottage cheese
Increase in vaginal discharge
The amount of vaginal discharge and cervical mucus you secrete may increase throughout pregnancy. Hormonal changes causes this as well as the softening of the cervix and vaginal walls.
Discharge is designed to protect your vagina from infection, but it can irritate the skin of the vulva, making it red and itchy.
Hormonal changes may cause vaginal dryness to occur in some people during pregnancy. Anecdotal evidence indicates that those who are breastfeeding when they conceive are more likely to experience this symptom.
Redness, irritation, and pain during sex may also occur.
Low progesterone may also cause vaginal dryness in some pregnant women. Since this hormone is necessary for sustaining pregnancy, talk to your doctor if you have this symptom.
Sensitivity to products
During pregnancy, the vagina becomes engorged with blood, and your skin may feel stretched and more sensitive than usual.
Products that you used comfortably before conceiving may now irritate your skin, causing it to itch and redden. Products that can cause this to occur include:
- bubble bath
- body wash
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
The uterus sits on top of the bladder. As it expands during pregnancy, greater pressure is placed on the bladder. This can block the expulsion of urine, causing an infection to occur.
For this reason, pregnant women can be at greater risk for getting a UTI.
Bacteria can also cause UTIs, such as group B strep bacteria (GBS). Around 1 in 4 pregnant women test positive for GBS. GBS in adults doesn't usually show symptoms. Since the GBS bacteria can be harmful to a newborn, your doctor will test you for it during pregnancy.
- frequent and urgent need to urinate
- abdominal pain
- vaginal itching and burning
- blood in urine
- pain during intercourse
Cholestasis of pregnancy
This liver condition may occur late in pregnancy. Why it happens isn't completely understood. Experts think genetics and pregnancy hormones play a role.
Cholestasis of pregnancy causes extreme itchiness on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The itching may start to affect the entire body, including the vaginal area. Rashes and redness don't occur with this condition.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
You can become pregnant while you have an STI or get one during pregnancy. Since STIs may not show symptoms, it's important to let your doctor know if you think you may have one contracted one.
If an STI does show symptoms, you may have:
- burning sensation
- vaginal discharge
- flu-like symptoms
STIs can adversely affect you and your baby, but you can get treated while you're pregnant, eliminating those risks.
Vaginal itching during pregnancy is often nothing to worry about and can often be resolved with at-home treatments.
However, during this time it may make sense to be especially proactive and talk with your doctor about any troubling symptoms you experience.
Treatments for vaginal itching will vary based on the cause. They include:
- Over-the-counter antifungal treatments. If your doctor has confirmed that you have a yeast infection, you can use an OTC antifungal cream or suppository to treat it. Don't use fluconazole (Diflucan). This prescribed antifungal medication has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage and shouldn't be taken during pregnancy.
- Baking soda. Itchy skin can be soothed by soaking in a baking soda bath or using a baking soda compresses on the area.
- Cool water. Cool baths and cold compresses may also help reduce itching.
- Product elimination. If you think the products you're using are causing your symptoms, try eliminating all of them and use all-natural, gentle products designed for use during pregnancy or for babies.
- Antibiotics. You'll need prescription medication if you have a UTI, STI, or bacterial vaginosis.
- Corticosteroids. Topical anti-itch creams such as corticosteroids may help reduce itching.
- Other medications. If you have cholestasis, your doctor will monitor you and might recommend you use anti-bile medications.
It may be hard to completely avoid vaginal itching during pregnancy, but certain proactive behaviors may help. Consider these tips:
- Try to keep your vaginal pH in the healthy range by eating yogurt that contains live cultures. You can also take a Lactobacillusacidophilus supplement daily with your doctor’s approval.
- Wear underwear made from cotton or another breathable fabric.
- Avoid wearing clothing that's too tight.
- Immediately change out of damp clothing, such as bathing suits or exercise gear.
- Avoid using products that contain scents, chemicals, or irritants.
- Practice good hygiene, especially after going to the bathroom. Always wipe from front to back.
- Don't douche. Douching alters the vagina’s natural pH balance. Follow our guide to clean your vagina and vulva.
- Try to reduce your stress levels with prenatal yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
Mention any uncomfortable symptom that worries you during pregnancy to your doctor. If you have vaginal itching that doesn't respond to at-home treatment within a few days, have your doctor check it out.
If vaginal itching is accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain or a thick, smelly discharge, see your doctor to rule out an infection. Also see your doctor if you notice streaky blood in your discharge.
Vaginal itching is a common occurrence during pregnancy and often nothing to worry about. It's mostly associated with the normal hormonal changes you can expect during this time.
If you're concerned about this symptom, or other symptoms accompany it, such as pain or odor, your doctor will be able to prescribe treatments that can help.