Zainab Naqvi
Zainab Naqvi Image Credit: Supplied

Zainab Naqvi’s hands turned red and began to itch. Then the skin began to blister and peel. The Sharjah-based expat found that the eczema she had suffered from as a child had made a dramatic return when she got pregnant six years ago.

Eczema is the most common dermatosis of pregnancy. Dr Moutusi Audhya, Specialist Dermatology, Aster Day Surgery Center in Mankhool, says: “Eczema is most commonly seen during the second trimester but can also happen in the first or third trimester. It is more common in women who have had eczema before pregnancy.”

“After I had my first-born it spread all over my hands and I had to use topical steroids. I did that on and off for years as the break-outs came and went. I got a break for two years - my hands were fine -but when I got pregnant for the second time last year, I knew it was going to be bad,” says Naqvi.

She feared the emotional and mental toll the condition would exact even as she made plans for her unborn child. “Homeopathy gave me some relief,” she tells Gulf News.

Naqvi gave birth six months ago, but says the eczema continues to haunt her. “My daily life is still affected as I can’t put my hands in water I have to keep them dry and away from all strong scents. Moisturizer stings, so I avoid that. No moisturizing has actually helped it heal better.”

The other thing that’s helped, says Naqvi, is having a supportive spouse. “My husband has been a huge help in all this he does the dishes and cooks after coming from work. All I can do is wait it out. As long as I'm breastfeeding [I’ll have it] because that plays a huge role in my eczema as it’s all linked to hormones and gut health, which are majorly effected during and post pregnancy,” she explains.

As someone whose had a long association with eczema, Naqvi says, ”You definitely need a doctor if you feel like your eczema is infected or else this prolongs the process of healing naturally.”

Zainab Naqvi
Zainab Naqvi's hands before her second pregnancy (left) and after. Image Credit: Supplied

Suspect a case of pregnancy eczema? This is what you need to know:

What are the symptoms?

US-based Medical News Today lists the signs of eczema as:

  • Itchy skin
  • Dark coloured patches on the skin
  • Rough or scaly patches that can ooze or crust
  • Skin that is dry, sensitive, red or inflamed
  • Some women have all of these symptoms, while others may have only a few. Also, the symptoms can vary in severity, it adds.

How can you minimise the effects of eczema?

Dr Saulat Zahra, Specialist – Dermatology at Bareen International Hospital - MBZ City, says: “You must consult with your dermatologist to discuss your special skin care and eczema treatment as it must be tailored to the individual.”

Other tips include:

  • Always use a gentle cleansing product free of perfume and soaps.
  • Avoid warm water while bathing.
  • Apply moisturizer frequently.
  • Wear a loose cotton dress as it is comfortable for sensitive skin.

Is eczema on mum dangerous for the baby?

No this isn’t something you can transmit to the child. Dr Zahra says: “The symptoms of eczema are uncomfortable and painful, but it is not contagious or dangerous for the health of the baby.”

Do some foods/drinks/skincare products make it worse?

There are in fact some dos and don’ts for eczema sufferers. Avoid, suggests Dr Zahra:

  • Chemically processed food,
  • Coloured food,
  • Carbonated drinks, and
  • Junk food.

“Perfumes and fragrance-containing skincare products can worsen eczema normally as well as during pregnancy,” adds Dr Audhya.

What are some natural remedies that can help?

“Using body oil before showering helps to protect the skin. Always apply skin moisturiser after a bath. Also, drinking an adequate amount of water is a must to keep your skin and body well hydrated,” says Dr Zahra.

Dr Audhya adds that one can find some relief by:

  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes of natural fibres like cotton,
  • Slathering on coconut oil,
  • Eating probiotics, and
  • De-stressing.

If the eczema doesn’t go away after you’ve given birth – what should you do next?

“Eczema may not always go away after pregnancy. In fact, the extra cleaning and washing associated with the birth of the baby may worsen the condition as you may neglect your own eczema treatment regimen,” says Dr Audhya, adding that if this is the case, it’s best to consult a dermatologist.

“Depending on the case, you may be advised to take some eczema medications to control the flare-up,” adds Dr Zahra. Eczema is a chronic condition and needs long-term continuous care.

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