Hives during pregnancy is a common skin problem that a woman can face during the run up to childbirth . Hives are nothing more than skin allergic reaction which appear as raised red or pale colored welts that cause severe itching.
Hives appear as clustered or grouped welts that even change their shapes and location on the body. They are commonly found on legs, arms and back.
Is it Something to Worry about?
Pregnancy hives is neither harmful to the mother nor to the baby in the womb. However, the associated itching can be very irritating to the mother-to-be.
It has been found that in 99% pregnancy cases, women do not get hives at all. It is only in very rare cases that hives in pregnancy occur.
Mostly, women experience severe itching on the skin during pregnancy, especially, on the breasts, abdomen, back of legs etc. It is because the skin stretches to accommodate the growing baby inside. Also there is a surge of production in hormones unique in pregnancy which might also stimulate dryness of the skin and cause itching.
Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy
A skin condition similar to hives called “Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP)” is found to occur among pregnant women. It is more frequently seen in the last trimester of child-bearing women.
Hives, if it does occur during pregnancy, is found to occur on buttocks, arms, thighs etc and causes severe irritating itching of the skin. It is advisable to seek the advice of the gynaecologost or midwife if an outbreak occurs when you’re visiting for regular maternity check-up.
The condition of hives is harmless but if the hives has found to occur in the genitilia area, then it is better to immediately refer to a doctor. The doctor or the midwife may prescribe anti-histamine lotions and ointments that can reduce the severity of itching on the skin.
If the condition is very severe, the doctors may prescribe some oral steroids. However, these medications are generally avoided as pregnancy is a delicate condition and any strong medications ought to be avoided.
Hives during pregnancy usually disappear after a few weeks of delivery of the baby. In very rare cases, it may persist beyond four weeks.
Hives in pregnancy are more common when it is a first-time pregnancy case. It has been observed that the condition of hives does not occur in subsequent pregnancies in the woman. Also pregnant women carrying twins in the womb tend to have higher chances of getting hives in the body.
Treatment of Pregnancy Hives
Hives during pregnancy does not affect the baby at all but the associated itching on the skin and body can be very irritating.
For that purpose, doctors often prescribe Benadryl lotions and sprays. Some women experience drowsiness and feeling sleepy after the application of Benadryl. Some even complain that the movements of the baby become slow and infrequent.
In any such cases, the pregnant woman must be rushed to the doctor and seek his/her advice.
Another hives treatment medicine which is very popular and administered often is Claritin. This medication is an anti-histamine product which does not induce skin allergic reaction of hives. In most of the cases, Benadryl and Claritin are not prescribed in the first trimester of pregnancy. Other popular anti-histamine drugs that are effective in hives during pregnancy are: Atarx, Zyrtec.
Pregnant women may find a great amount of relief when they take a cool shower and apply anti-histamine lotion on the skin area affected by hives.
Generally, the itching on hives is known to begin at night when the woman is asleep or trying to sleep. When this happens, it might be a good idea to keep Benadryl sprays handy. Calamine lotions are also known to provide immense relief to the patients suffering form hives.
Of course, the simplest approach that a doctor follows is to check if the hives reaction has been caused by any food allergen. If yes, then this allergen is to be avoided from the diet, so that no such allergic reaction recurs.
If you have never had hives before and now have a sudden flare-up of hives during pregnancy, then this condition of hives is more to do with pregnancy hormones than simple allergic reactions to the body.
Also avoid scratching and rubbing the skin surface affected by hives. Doing this will only aggravate the problem and make matters worse.
Taking showers in very hot water can also trigger a great deal of irritation on the hives. This must be avoided too, especially during pregnancy. After showering with cool water, one must pat dry with a soft towel only and avoid any vigorous rubbing on the body.
Causes of Hives During Pregnancy
The actual cause of hives occurring on the skin is not really known in the first instance. People can get a hives reaction on the skin as an allergic reaction to any food substance or food allergen.
Foods such as eggs, chocolates, soy, shellfish etc. are known to trigger severe hives rash on the body. Food additives such as food colors are also found to be responsible for triggering the hives reaction.
Some people are also known to get hives when they consume medications and drugs.
Animal dander, extreme cold or hot temperatures, emotional stress, excessive perspiration, wearing tight fitting clothes etc trigger the onset of hives.
In pregnant women, it has been observed that there is a fluctuation of hormonal levels (progesterone and estrogens) in the body. As a result of this change, the skin gets affected and skin hives rash can occur.
Some women experience hives on the skin when they are taking contraceptive pills. They may be allergic to these drugs.
Hives during pregnancy happens when the hormonal imbalance in the blood stream triggers the production of IgE antibodies by the auto-immune system of the body. When these IgE antibodies bind with the mast cells of the skin, they produce histamines. These histamines produce the allergic reaction in the body.
Whatever be the cause, hives in pregnancy can greatly irritate the mother-to-be. One must avoid taking over-the-counter drugs that can be harmful to the baby and must take the advise of their Doctor first before any medication is taken.