There are a lot of strange pregnancy symptoms I totally created in my own mind. Like I was positive that I smelled different when I was pregnant, and I didn't think my deodorant worked as well. Another strange occurrence I've heard about is having itchy nipples during early pregnancy. There are plenty of message board posts and reddit threads revolving around the tips of your nips, and if they should itch when you're expecting. But is it an actual sign or symptom of pregnancy?
Like almost all of the difficult, peculiar, and somewhat unexpected embarrassments of pregnancy, itchy nipples is a real thing and is caused by hormones, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). "Itchy nipples are a symptom of breast growth and increased blood flow to the breast, often due to hormonal shifts," Dr. Mary Jacobson, Chief Medical Director at Alpha Medical tells Romper. Those hormones begin the process of getting your breasts ready to produce milk and your nipples ready to deploy your newborn's beverage of choice from the word go. This means that with all the blood flow, stretching, and cellular shifts happening in your breasts, your nipples — the sensitive peaks of the structures — will likely begin to itch.
Because running out of the office three times an hour to throw up isn't embarrassing enough. Nope, you need to also figure out how to discreetly scratch the heck out of your nipples when no one is watching.
But your itchy nipples may also have nothing to do with pregnancy. Because the itchiness is often the result of hormones, Jacobsen says that your itchy nipples "can also be a cyclic symptom that a woman experiences between ovulation and her period due to rising progesterone levels each month." So if you're experiencing itchy nipples, but haven't missed your period yet or had a positive pregnancy test, there's a chance it may just be a symptom of your cycle not related to having a baby.
The best strategies for keeping the nipple itching to a minimum is a multi-pronged approach, according to the ACOG. First, you want to make sure you're well hydrated. The drier your nipples are, the more they will itch. Aim to drink as much as it takes to quench your thirst, and then drink a bit more. Sure, you'll have to pee a lot, but you'll likely be in there to throw up anyway, so you can kill two birds with one bathroom break. I found that it helped to have a liter water bottle on me at all times — I knew I needed to down two of those so I could get the full benefit.
While itchy nipples can be a sign of pregnancy, they can also be a sign of a bad moisturizer, reported Self. Make sure the one you use is thick and has lasting power. A rich cocoa butter from the Body Shop seemed to help my own itchy nipples. New Kids Center also suggested making sure your bra fits really well and is very supportive. If your nipples have a hard time making an appearance, it's hard for them to work up the effort to itch, or at least it seems that way. The counter pressure helps ease the discomfort, and relieves the need to tear at them like they've wronged you personally.
One more thing you might not consider is how you do your laundry and the soap you use. I mean, ostensibly, you've been using these products for a very long time, so why would they bother you now? Turns out those hormones screw with you, and what may not have irritated you before can irritate the crap out of you now. Self also noted that you could have sunburn, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, or a thyroid disorder causing your itchy nipples. They could also be a side effect of any medications you're on.
And one other possible reason for itchy nipples? Breastfeeding. If you're breastfeeding, thrush could be the cause of your uncomfortable nipples. La Leche League International noted that thrush pain will often come after a long time of pain-free breastfeeding, and one of the main symptoms is itchy or burning nipples that appear red, flaky, shiny, and/or have rashes or tiny blisters.
But Bethany Jacobs, lactation counselor and owner of Latched & Attached, tells Romper in a previous article that no matter what stage of breastfeeding you're in, you can still blame your pesky hormones for itchy nipples. Whether you're weaning, pumping, or breastfeeding around the clock, if you're experiencing itchy nipples without the other symptoms of thrush, it could just be a hormonal thing.
The big kicker is that itchy nipples aren't always a sign of pregnancy, but they could be. There are tons of other factors to consider, like what your bra's doing, if you're still breastfeeding, or if you have super dry skin. If you're trying to get pregnant, don't rely on the itchiness of your nipples to tell you if you fertilized an egg, OK? Hormones can change all the time, and being aware of that (and how your nipples feel) can get you through TTC.
Dr. Mary Jacobson, Chief Medical Director at Alpha Medical
This article was originally published on