What Drugs Are Safe in Pregnancy for Itching?

Pregnant women can develop any number of skin conditions that cause itching. This can include pregnancy induced conditions, such as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), skin dryness and pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), also called polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEOP or PEP). Women can also experience normal itchy skin issues, like allergies, insect bites or other sensitivities to the environment. Treatment during pregnancy is not significantly different from treatment outside of pregnancy, although a few drugs may be harmful to the unborn fetus.

A pregnant woman is applying lotion to her stomach. Credit: Valua Vitaly/iStock/Getty Images


Several over-the-counter anti-itch creams that can be applied directly to the skin to help alleviate itching contain natural medications like calamine, suggests the American Pregnancy Association. Other similar natural medications include fragrance-free lotions, oatmeal based creams or bath agents, and aloe vera.

Topical Corticosteroids

Several corticosteroids are safe for use during pregnancy explains the National Institutes of Health, but some should only be used for short-term treatment. Examples include creams containing 1 percent hydrocortisone cream or a combination of hydrocortisone, aloe, colloidal oatmeal and vitamin E, such as that found in commercial anti-itch creams, suggests Drugs.com.

Oral Steroids

For more serious pregnancy itching, such as that experienced with PUPPP, a woman may be prescribed an oral steroid treatment to stop the discomfort, suggests the American Pregnancy Association. This medication is often used only as long as absolutely necessary.


Several over-the-counter antihistamine medications are safe for use during pregnancy, but should only be chosen after consulting a doctor. These include chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine and clemastine, suggests OBFocus.com. Some medications come in a topical formula for direct application to the site of itching, such as diphenhydramine. Antihistamine medications are useful for treating allergic reactions that cause itching, but they are also helpful in blocking the itching sensation for other conditions like PUPPP and insect bites.

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