Dealing with Hives during Pregnancy
Hives are red, itchy blotches on the skin. These are just one of many conditions that pregnant women may suffer from. Find out more about what causes hives during pregnancy and the consequences for the health of mother and baby.
When a woman is pregnant, her body goes through enormous changes which affect her mentally and physically. Some of these affect the skin. Many women suffer from hives during pregnancy.
Hives, also known as urticaria, refers to an itchy skin rash made up of raised red blotches. This is just one of the many symptoms that can go along with pregnancy, and it can be very uncomfortable.
In general, hives appear during the third trimester, particularly during a woman’s first pregnancy. The condition is characterized by raised red blotches and welts that itch or burn.
Hives during pregnancy generally appear around the abdomen, although the rash may extend down the limbs.
Hives during pregnancy can certainly give expectant mothers a major scare. The vivid red blotches can look pretty frightening. It’s easy to confuse them with symptoms of more severe conditions.
Read on to find out what causes hives during pregnancy, how to treat the condition and when to worry about possible complications.
Causes of hives during pregnancy
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), 1 in every 150 pregnant women suffer from skin conditions such as hives, which is also known as PUPPP (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy).
Among the causes of symptoms such as dryness and itching are the hormonal changes that occur in the female body during pregnancy.
Among other alterations, the body begins to produce larger amounts of a hormone called estrogen. At the same time, the skin of the abdomen stretches to make room, making it vulnerable to this kind of condition.
Doctors still aren’t able to pinpoint exactly what causes many cases of hives during pregnancy or PUPPP. However, some factors with a proven link to the condition are:
- Allergic reactions: certain foods, bacteria or chemicals can set off an alert in the body that causes a skin rash to appear. This happens because the body releases histamine, a substance that fights pathogens.
- Hormonal stress: the cocktail of different emotions and hormonal changes during pregnancy can often result in a mix of symptoms. The skin is one of the first organs to be affected, along with the digestive system.
- Skin stretching: this can break down connective tissue. As a consequence, the body generates an inflammatory reaction, which causes an outbreak of red blotches.
Other causes of hives include chronic health conditions such as lupus and other autoimmune disorders, as well as serious diseases such as leukemia. These causes haven’t been recorded in pregnant women, however.
“The condition is characterized by raised red blotches and welts that itch or burn. Hives during pregnancy generally appear around the abdomen, although the rash may extend down the limbs”
Treatment of hives during pregnancy
Hives that appear during pregnancy are likely to clear up immediately after giving birth or over the next few days. However, doctors often prescribe treatment to help with the symptoms. An itchy rash can be extremely irritating, and scratching can lead to more serious conditions.
With this in mind, your doctor may give you topical corticoids, along with emollients and antihistamines. These medications should always be taken according to your doctor’s instruction.
Some women may be particularly sensitive to certain drugs, in which case your healthcare practitioner will look for an alternative.
“Hives that appear during pregnancy are likely to clear up immediately after giving birth or over the next few days”
Are hives during pregnancy dangerous?
It’s important to keep in mind that hives during pregnancy don’t present a risk to the mother or baby. In general, this is a mild condition that clears up on its own.
In very severe cases, hives during pregnancy can lead to respiratory issues. These are very rare, however.
Breathing problems occur when the inflammation affects the inside of the throat. In this case, treatment with fast-acting intravenous medication is necessary.
With all of this in mind, speak to your doctor as soon as you notice signs of hives during pregnancy.
This isn’t a condition that you can prevent, but it’s important to make sure that the rash isn’t a sign of a more complex medical condition.
If you notice red blotches on your abdomen or other parts of your body, seek medical advice. You and your baby are almost certainly not at risk, but speaking to a healthcare professional will help put your mind at ease.
With your doctor’s approval, you may also be able to turn to home remedies to soothe the itch.