Common discomforts in the second half of pregnancy

by Kaiser Permanente |
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Nearing your third trimester of pregnancy, you might have symptoms that make you feel uncomfortable. Here’s what to expect, along with what you can do to feel better.

Hand changes

Many people notice changes to their hands during pregnancy. You might have:

  • Mild swelling. This is caused by normal fluid buildup during pregnancy.
  • Numbness and pain. A condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome might put pressure on the nerves in your wrist. This buildup of fluid can cause stiffness, tingling and pain in your hands. Talk to your clinician about simple things that can help, such as wrist braces. It usually goes away after you give birth.
  • Pins-and-needles sensation. Clinicians don’t know why this happens, but it’s usually not a reason to worry. A simple change in your position might help.
  • Red, itchy palms and soles of the feet. Changing hormone levels are responsible for these symptoms. They usually go away after you give birth. In the meantime, it can help to use a moisturizer.

Itchy skin

As your skin stretches, it might feel itchy. This is especially true for your growing belly but can happen anywhere.

To manage itchy skin, try:

  • Avoiding hot showers or baths.
  • Eliminating drying soaps, products containing alcohol, and heavily chlorinated water.
  • Storing moisturizer in the refrigerator and using it when needed.
  • Using a humidifier if you live in a dry climate.
  • Wearing gloves while washing dishes.

After any contact with water, try gently patting your skin dry instead of rubbing it with a towel. Follow this by applying moisturizer.

Itching without a rash can sometimes be due to a condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). It is important to tell your clinician if you have severe itching that is not relieved with the tips given here, especially if it occurs on your hands and feet

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are very common during pregnancy. They are caused by changes in the tissue just beneath the skin. It’s thought that family history plays a role. You could be more likely to get them if your mother had them.

Depending on your skin color, stretch marks usually look like pink, red, dark, or white streaks. They’re most likely to form on your belly, but you could also get them on your breasts or thighs.

There isn’t any proven way to prevent stretch marks, but creams, oils, or moisturizers can help manage itchiness. They most likely won’t go away completely, but should fade over time.

Swelling

Swelling in the feet and ankles is common around this time. Some people also have these symptoms in the wrists and hands. This is caused by fluid buildup during pregnancy, which is normal.

Be on the lookout for swelling that accompanies higher blood pressure, facial puffiness, and headaches. These symptoms might mean you have a condition called preeclampsia. You should let your care team know right away if you have swelling with any of these symptoms.

Other common skin changes

Your hormones might also be responsible for other skin changes, such as:

  • A dark line that forms between your belly button and your pubic area. This line is known as a linea nigra. It usually fades after you give birth.
  • Dark patches on the face. This is known as melasma or the "mask of pregnancy." In most cases, these patches fade away after pregnancy. Sunscreen is important for everyone during pregnancy but especially if you have melasma.
  • Darkened areolas, or the areas around the nipples.
  • A red, raised rash. Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) most often forms during a first pregnancy. It may start as stretch marks on your abdomen and move to your buttocks, thighs, and arms. It’s not serious, and usually goes away on its own after you give birth.
  • Small, red patches. These are called spider angiomas, and they often form on the face, neck, chest, and arms. They usually go away after pregnancy.

If you have any skin changes or other symptoms that concern you, talk with your clinician.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.

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