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Why Do My Nipples Itch During Pregnancy

by Lyndon Langley
Why Do My Nipples Itch During Pregnancy

Why Do My Nipples Itch During Pregnancy

As any pregnant woman knows, the body undergoes all kinds of physical transformations. The breasts grow bigger and more sensitive as well as changing in color from pink to red or purple around their nipples. Hair sprouts on the head and face, and some women begin to get stretch marks. Many new sounds are added to life — gurgles, laughs, and even crying babies — while others disappear — silence, coughing, sneezing. But one thing that most women probably don’t expect is itching. Nipple itch can occur at any time during pregnancy, but usually occurs between three and six months when estrogen levels rise. Some experts believe that this change in skin texture is caused by an increase in blood supply to the nipples.
Women who have never experienced nipple pain before might be surprised to find themselves with painful itchy breasts. In fact, about 70 percent of pregnant women will suffer from nipple irritation sometime during their pregnancies [sources: Mayo Clinic; WebMD]. And if you’re not expecting it, you’ll need some relief. Fortunately there are many options for dealing with nipple discomfort, including over-the-counter medications like hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, antihistamines (like Benadryl) and moisturizers. If your condition doesn’t improve after trying these remedies, your doctor should consider other possible causes of your symptoms such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, yeast infections, and bacterial infections.
Nipple itch doesn’t just affect the appearance of your breasts — it’s uncomfortable too. Most women feel a burning sensation whenever they touch their irritated nipples. This discomfort can lead to self-conscious feelings about nursing because the discomfort makes breastfeeding very difficult. Women often try to relieve the itch by covering the affected area with clothing, wearing gloves, limiting contact with the irritated areas, avoiding hot water bottles or heating pads, and using cool compresses instead. Other tips include applying topical ointments containing benzocaine, lidocaine, menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oils. You can also apply a combination of lanolin, petroleum jelly, and witch hazel.
If you find yourself suffering from severe nipple discomfort, however, you should consult your physician. Your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation, or stronger prescription medications such as antibiotics, antihistamines, and retinoid creams.
Keep reading to learn what hormones could be causing your itchy nipples.
Although it seems impossible, itching nipples aren’t always caused by hormonal changes. Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, yeast infections, and bacterial infections can also trigger nipple itch.
Pregnancy Hormones and Irritated Nipples
The hormonal changes associated with pregnancy make some women feel different, and those differences may result in several unpleasant conditions. For example, the hormone progesterone stimulates milk production, making the breasts larger and softer. Progesterone also reduces the amount of acid produced by bacteria, which can irritate the nipples. These effects combine to make the nipples swell and become tender. Breast tissue becomes looser and denser, which can lead to sagging and dimpling. As a result, many women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Nipple swelling can also cause problems for nursing mothers. Because breasts change size and shape throughout pregnancy, nursing positions can shift, leading to difficulty feeding newborn infants. The weight of the infant pulls downward on the mother’s chest, forcing her breasts upward into the chest cavity where they rub against the lungs, causing lung problems called engorgement. Engorgement can continue until approximately two weeks after delivery, although most women experience its worst effects immediately following birth. Finally, the additional stress placed on the body by pregnancy hormones can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, constipation, and heart palpitations. All of these factors can contribute to nipple irritation.
Fortunately, nipple discomfort isn’t permanent. Some evidence suggests that nipple dryness and irritation can be relieved after delivery. Although the exact reason why this happens remains unclear, one theory holds that lactation consultants can help alleviate nipple pain by providing special care and attention. However, if your nipple problem persists after delivery, you should consult your health provider.
For information related to nipple disorders, check out the links on the next page.
Eczema affects nearly everyone, yet few people understand its causes. Eczema affects 20 million American adults, and about 3 million children under 18 years old also suffer from the chronic allergic skin disorder. Eczema is characterized by rashes, blisters, and cracked, bleeding skin. While doctors don’t know exactly what causes eczema, they do know that certain types tend to run in families. Eczema tends to strike people who are exposed to allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and chemicals. People with eczema are more likely to have allergies than people without eczema. Eczema can worsen during times of emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, or anger. If you think you have eczema, see your doctor so he or she can diagnose the type and severity of your eczema.
To read more about pregnancy and skin issues, look through the resources listed on the next page.
Nipple pain is only one of many discomforts associated with pregnancy. Swollen ankles, varicose veins, leg cramps, and heartburn are common complaints among pregnant women. More serious complications, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, iron deficiency, urinary tract infection, and placental abruption, are also more prevalent during pregnancy.

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