August 26, 2009

Hives During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment

Posted in Category : Women's Health

Hives are a common allergic skin reaction that can affect adults and children.  Women are especially prone to skin rashes and infections due to low immunity and hormonal imbalance during pregnancy. The skin also stretches to accommodate the growing baby and may become dry and itchy. That said, only one percent of women suffer from hives when pregnant. While hives during pregnancy is not harmful to either mother or baby, it can cause unpleasant symptoms such as severe itching and inflammation of the skin. This only adds to the long list of health complaints during pregnancy.

Hives or rash during pregnancy appears as raised skin welts that are pale or red in color. They may appear in clusters or groups in different areas of the skin and can change locations on the body as the rash spreads. Hives are most often found on the arms and legs and on the back. Other symptoms of hives or uritcaria during pregnancy include:

  • Itchy welts and skin
  • Welts that are red on the outer rim and pale in color in the middle
  • Circular welts can range in size from a small pebble like rash to large dinner plate sized welts
  • Angioedema or localized swelling of the skin at the site of the welts
  • As one cluster of welts starts to worsen another cluster begins to heal
  • Hives during pregnancy may disappear only a few weeks after delivery
  • Hives during pregnancy are more common in first time pregnancies

It is very important that you consult with your doctor or gynecologist if you suffer from any skin rash or irritation during pregnancy. Symptoms of hives can be confused for other more serious pregnancy-related skin conditions like pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) and autoimmune progesterone dermatitis of pregnancy. To diagnose the condition correctly, a consultation with an immunologist would be necessary.


The exact cause of hives (during pregnancy or not) is not known. There are a number of possible reasons that could cause a hives allergic reaction. These include:

  • Food allergies to foods such as eggs, shellfish, soy, or chocolates
  • Food additives and artificial coloring
  • Certain medications
  • Pollen or animal dander
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Tight clothes / synthetic materials
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Hormonal imbalances during pregnancy
  • Low immunity during pregnancy
  • Multiple pregnancies are more likely to cause hives


Pregnancy-related hives are usually treated with over-the-counter antihistamine medication. Lotions and sprays containing Benadryl are prescribed but these may cause the mother to feel drowsy. Antihistamines are also never prescribed during the first trimester of pregnancy. When taking any medication during pregnancy, it is very important to have it all prescribed by your doctor as certain medication could harm the growth of the baby. Many women prefer not to take any drugs during their pregnancies and resort to natural cures and home remedies to treat various ailments. There are a number of safe home remedies you can try if you suffer from hives during pregnancy such as:

  • Cut open a leaf of the Aloe Vera plant and apply the gel on your hives. The Aloe Vera helps reduce inflammation and soothes any itchiness and pain.
  • Bromelain is a compound found in pineapples that works as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps alleviate hives. Apply fresh pineapple on the hives for the best results.
  • Burdock root is a powerful herb that has detoxifying and anti-bacterial properties. Sip on burdock root tea to help reduce swelling and clean the skin.
  • Make a paste of turmeric powder and water and apply it on the affected areas of the skin. Turmeric acts as a natural antihistamine and helps cure hives.
  • Sip on a cup of green tea to cleanse the system and repair any toxic damage to the tissues.
  • If hives are the result of food allergy, make sure you cut the particular food item out of your diet.
  • Have a warm water bath with a cup of baking soda added to it. This helps soothe the itchiness and any dryness of the skin.
  • Another alternative is to add a cup of oatmeal to your bath to reduce inflammation and itchiness.
  • You can apply a cold compress or an ice pack to the affected areas of the skin to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Dip a clean cloth or cotton ball in cold milk and apply this to the hives. This helps alleviate pain and inflammation.

Hives are an uncomfortable skin allergy but are rarely harmful. Hives can last for a few days or weeks. However there are cases when hives can develop into a life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis. If you experience any of the following symptoms along with hives, call 911 immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the face and tongue
  • Wheezing
  • Throat feels constricted

Keep in mind that every little condition during pregnancy should be diagnosed by your doctor in order to ensure your safety and the safety of your child.