As if leg cramps, a sore back and nausea weren't enough, some women experience a dry, scaly scalp during pregnancy. This condition may be from changes in hormone levels, or even reduced liver function. Different strategies can help relieve dry scalp for most pregnant women, but see your doctor if you experience persistent, or progressively worse dry scalp, as it may be a sign of another underlying medical condition.
During pregnancy, decreased bowel functioning causes the skin to work harder to relieve toxins, according to Dr. Aviva Jill Romm, MD, author of "The Natural Pregnancy Book." Itching is sometimes associated with an inadequate diet or even stress, which can manifest itself in a dry scalp or itchy skin. Localized itching, including a dry scalp, is present in 20 percent of pregnancies, said Dr. Eric Grasser, MD, of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
First, work to improve your diet by adding more fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds and reduce your intake of saturated fat, butter and fried foods. Pregnant women should drink around 1/2 gallon of water per day, according to Romm. Staying hydrated helps the liver and bowels function more efficiently and also keeps the skin moisturized. Go for a brisk walk or participate in some other form of exercise daily. Exercise increases circulation, which can help reduce dry scalp.
Use a prescription or non-prescription shampoo containing zinc pyrithione or selenium. Leave the shampoo in your hair for five minutes before rinsing. Consult your doctor about any precautions or warnings before using any prescription corticosteroid creams or prescription shampoo during pregnancy to treat itching.
Pregnancy is an exciting, wonderful time, but it also can be a time of heightened stress and anxiety. Dry scalp may be an indication that something is bothering you. Pay attention to your feelings and talk with a partner, friend or family member. A daily walk or yoga can also help relieve stress. Contact your care provider if dry scalp lasts more than three to four weeks with treatment.
- "The Natural Pregnancy Book"; Aviva Jill Romm; 2003
- Eric Grasser, MD and Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner; Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Debra Jaliman, MD and Assistant Professor at Mt. SInai School of Medicine; New York City
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."