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Atopic Eruption of Pregnancy

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Last updated: November 2023

Also known as: Eczema in Pregnancy, Prurigo of Pregnancy, Pruritic Folliculitis of Pregnancy, Papular Dermatoses of Pregnancy

What is atopic eruption of pregnancy?

The term “Atopic Eruption of Pregnancy” (AEP) groups together a number of conditions with similar features. AEP is the most common of the pregnancy dermatoses, occurring in nearly 1 in 300 pregnancies. 1

Who gets atopic eruption of pregnancy?

AEP can occur throughout all stages of pregnancy, but most often appears in the 1st or 2nd trimester. 2

What causes atopic eruption of pregnancy?

“Atopy” describes a problem with the immune system that causes individuals to be prone to eczema, asthma or hay-fever. It often runs in families.

“Atopy” is also associated with poor skin barrier function, causing dry and sensitive skin. Women with AEP may have had eczema (atopic dermatitis) before pregnancy, or they may develop a rash for the first time during pregnancy.

What does atopic eruption of pregnancy look like?

AEP develops relatively early in pregnancy.

There are two forms of this condition:

  1. Eczematous (E-type AEP) – rough and red patches develop. This typically occurs on the face, neck, creases of elbows and backs of knees
  2. Prurigo (P-type AEP) – bumps develop and can affect widespread areas like the abdomen, arms and legs

The skin is usually dry. Scratch-marks (excoriations) or weeping (exudation) of the skin may be present. The rash is very itchy.

How is atopic eruption of pregnancy diagnosed?

AEP is usually diagnosed from a physical examination of the skin.

A skin biopsy may be performed. Blood tests may also be undertaken to see if there is an elevation of IgE, an immunoglobulin that is associated with atopy.

How is atopic eruption of pregnancy treated?

Treatment options will vary depending on the individual and their needs.

AEP can usually be controlled with moisturisers and steroid ointments. Soaps and other irritants should be avoided, and washing should be limited to once daily.

More severely affected women may benefit from phototherapy (narrow band UVB). In some cases, steroid tablets may be required.

What is the likely outcome of atopic eruption of pregnancy?

AEP does not adversely affect the pregnancy or cause any harm to the baby. However, the child may be prone to developing eczema, asthma or hay fever.

AEP usually improves after delivery of the baby, but affected women may continue to have the atopic tendency and the condition may recur in future pregnancies.

  1. Kroumpouzos G, Cohen LM. Dermatoses of pregnancy. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2001 Jul;45(1):1-19; quiz 19-22. doi: 10.1067/mjd.2001.114595. PMID: 11423829.
  2. Ambros-Rudolph CM, Müllegger RR, Vaughan-Jones SA, Kerl H, Black MM. The specific dermatoses of pregnancy revisited and reclassified: results of a retrospective two-center study on 505 pregnant patients. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006 Mar;54(3):395-404. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2005.12.012. PMID: 16488288.
Dr Genevieve SadlerNovember 2023
Dr Genevieve SadlerDecember 2020

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