About 1 in 5 pregnant women experience changes in their skin during pregnancy, including acne, skin darkening, and stretch marks. Although women may feel self-conscious about these new “beauty marks,” skin changes during pregnancy are a normal occurrence. Hives during pregnancy are less common, but they do happen frequently.
Hives during pregnancy represent an allergic reaction to food, insect bites, medicine, chemicals, etc. With the increase in hormones and changes that happen in your body, it is possible that you become more sensitive to pathogens and experience hives while pregnant.
What Causes Hives During Pregnancy?
As your belly grows to keep up with your growing baby, skin discomfort in the form of itchiness and dryness can occur. Pregnant women can face more serious bouts of itchiness, hives or rashes, and 1 in 150 pregnant women will develop a more serious skin condition known as PUPP.
Hives are caused by allergic reactions. The dryness and stretching of your skin along with other changes can make you more susceptible to experiencing hives during pregnancy. Hives can be caused by an allergic reaction to almost anything.
Some common causes of hives during pregnancy are noted below:
- insect bites
- animal dander
- foods (i.e. dairy, nuts, shellfish)
Hives can be triggered or brought on by scratching, stress, or pressure on the skin. It is important to care for your skin carefully as to not aggravate or worsen the hives you experience.
Another condition that affects 1 in 50 women is cholestasis of pregnancy. This is a condition where intense itching is also accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and potentially jaundice. This condition can indicate there are problems with your liver. Should you see these signs or symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor immediately.
What is PUPP?
PUPP stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plagues of pregnancy. Women that develop PUPP will see outbreaks of red, raised patches on their skin.
The first site of the outbreak is generally the abdomen, but women with PUPP can see the condition spread to the arms and legs as well. Women with PUPP sometimes report extreme itching with these outbreaks.
Some research points to PUPP being linked to a genetic condition, as it seems to run in families, but ultimately, the cause of PUPP is still unknown. Generally, PUPP happens more often in a woman’s first pregnancy and is rarely seen in subsequent pregnancies.
How Can I Treat Hives During Pregnancy?
Minor rashes can have a tendency to go away on their own. However, it is important to not scrub the affected area. Soap can aggravate the condition, so cutting back on the amount of soap you use can be beneficial.
One technique that could reduce the itchiness is taking an oatmeal bath or using baking soda in your bath. Keeping your skin well-moisturized can also help with the itching and dryness.
There are several antihistamines that are considered safe to take during pregnancy such as Allegra, Benadryl, and Chlor-Trimeton, Claritin and Zyrtec. It is important to review the warnings on any medication and consult your pharmacist and healthcare provider before taking any medication.
For more serious skin conditions like PUPP, doctors may prescribe oral medications or a variety of anti-itch creams.
How Can I Prevent Hives During Pregnancy?
You might be someone who is more susceptible to hives in general. If that is the case, more than likely you know what foods or pathogens to avoid from previous experience.
Because you might be more susceptible and pregnancy tends to bring on dry and itchy skin, it is important to know steps you can take to prevent hives while pregnant. You at least want to know how you can minimize the hives you experience during pregnancy.
Here are some tips for minimizing or preventing hives during pregnancy:
- Avoid hot showers and hot baths (at least lower the temperatures)
- Avoid wearing tight fitted clothing
- Try not to scratch your skin as it itches
- Keep pressure off your skin
- Avoid stress and practice relaxation techniques
The above may not prevent all cases of hives, but it usually makes the cases of hives less severe and go away quicker.
Compiled from the following Sources
American Academy of Dermatology, (Accessed Oct 2014), Hives: Who Gets and Causes
National Institute of Health (access Oct 2014), Hives
Harms, R. (2004). Mayo Clinic guide to a healthy pregnancy (1st ed., pp. 480-481). New York: HarperResource.
Johnson, R. (1994). Mayo Clinic complete book of pregnancy & baby’s first year (1st ed., p. 17). New York: W. Morrow and Co.