Urticaria in pregnancy is actually a fairly common skin condition. Urticaria is the medical term for hives, in pregnancy not as common as they are for those not pregnant. Hives are characterized by raised, splotchy, red, or pale colored areas that are sometimes severely itchy. These areas are called wheals and can appear anywhere on the body, can change shape, color, or location, and can disappear as fast as they appear. The main consideration may be the treatment of urticaria in pregnancy because you may want to avoid certain pharmaceutical remedies that you would otherwise think nothing of. You should always be cautious about using any drugs during pregnancy that may cause harm to your child.
Breaking out in hives during pregnancy
The first thing you should know about urticaria in pregnancy is that pregnancy hives, even hives in early pregnancy, is not harmful to the baby or the mother. But the mother usually has enough discomfort associated with being pregnant without the added itchiness hives in pregnancy brings. Only about one in a hundred women will develop urticaria in pregnancy and when they do, the wheals usually appear on the legs, arms, and back area. Only if the hives appear in the area of the genitals that a doctor should be consulted right away. The doctor will usually not prescribe steroids or other drugs for urticaria in pregnancy out of concern for the fetus but he or she may advise a lotion or cream to help relieve the itching and discomfort. Hives in pregnancy or without being pregnant cannot be cured with these lotions, but the itchiness can be relieved. Oral steroids should only be used as a last resort out of concern for the baby in the womb.
Other conditions that mimic urticaria in pregnancy
There is a condition that is similar to hives in pregnancy known as Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP). This is another benign dermatitis that usually shows up late in the pregnancy. It is as harmless as hives in pregnancy but is more like a rash than the splotchy wheals seen in hives. PUPPP typically starts on the stomach and spreads to the legs, feet, chest, arms, and neck. It seems to affect women carrying boys more than girls but still only affects about one in two hundred and disappears without treatment within a week after delivery.
Causes of hives in pregnancy
The actual cause of urticaria in pregnancy is really unknown. Certainly pregnancy brings with it hormonal changes and fluctuations in progesterone and estrogen levels. Sometimes this change affects the skin and the constant itching itself will bring on the hives in pregnancy. But for the most part it is idiopathic, which is to say in medical terms that the cause is not known.
Another theory as to the cause of hives in pregnancy is that the hormonal imbalance in the blood stream sets off the production of IgE antibodies by the auto-immune system of the mother. These IgE antibodies then bind with the skin’s mast cells, producing histamines. These histamines produce the allergic reaction in the body that present as hives.
If they really become bothersome, you should seek a natural alternative to treat them and chances are they will not be a problem after delivery.