Hives, also known as urticaria, is one of the less common skin changes experienced by pregnant women, alongside the common ones such as skin darkening and stretch marks. It is quite normal to develop the red, itchy bumps on the skin surface when carrying.
But hives is not considered a sign of pregnancy as it can occur anytime during the three trimesters, being more common in late pregnancy, especially when resulting from a skin condition named “pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy” (PUPPP).
Can pregnancy cause hives?
As your pregnancy advances, the skin around your belly gradually stretches to accommodate your growing baby. As a result, it is normal for the skin to become dry and itchy, leading to rashes or hives. The itchy welts can appear anywhere on the body, from the hands and legs to your back, neck and chest. In 1 out of around 150 pregnancies, the skin rashes are diagnosed as PUPPP.
On the other hand, researches have shown that pregnancy may have a positive effect on chronic hives (unless it advanced to PUPPP). So, women suffering from long-term hives from before the time they conceived may expect the symptoms of the skin problem to become better during these nine months.
Hives due to allergic reactions while pregnant
Apart from stretching and dryness, the increasing hormone levels in pregnancy may also make your skin more sensitive to common allergens, from medicines and chemicals to pollen and pet dander, often causing skin allergies and hives. It may also worsen any chronic allergies you may have had from before pregnancy, including food allergies.
Excessive sweating, scratching or undue pressure on the skin due to tight clothing may also cause hives or worsen the condition if you already have it. Being too stressed can also lead to such skin issues or worsen a chronic condition.
Like most other common pregnancy complaints, carrying twins may make you more likely to get nettle rashes, often due to the higher hormone levels.
Can hives be harmful to your baby
Hives do not usually pose any serious threat to either the mother or baby as long as there are no other serious underlying health conditions.
Pregnancy hives treatment
It does not usually require any medical treatment as the rashes go away on their own within a few weeks to months. The duration may vary from one woman to another, depending on the causes. In some cases, it resolves after childbirth as the hormone levels come back to normal. Studies show cases where the hives come back only during subsequent pregnancies.
How to manage and prevent hives
• Avoiding hot showers and baths as these could further dry your skin, worsening the itching and rash
• Wearing breathable cotton clothes with collar and long sleeves to prevent sweating and protect your skin from getting exposed to direct sunlight
• Placing cold compress on the itchy areas for relief
• Taking an oatmeal bath is a useful natural remedy
You may also consult your doctor regarding the effectiveness and safety of using essential oils for dealing with the symptoms of hives.
Severe cases may require treatment to reduce the swelling and itchiness. Antihistamines are not recommended to pregnant women unless necessary, with some of the commonly used medications including Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, Claritin, and Allegra.
Hives occurring after pregnancy
Some women also experience itchy skin, hives or nettle rash break out after they give birth to their baby. Like in pregnant women, it can go away on its own within a few days or weeks, unless there are any serious underlying causes. Treatment may be necessary in some cases, and it varies depending on factors like the mother’s health and whether or not she is nursing her baby.