Postpartum hives or urticaria are itchy, red, or skin-colored rashes on the skin. These occur when the body’s immune system comes in contact with allergens and produces histamine (from small capillaries) and other chemicals into the blood. The histamine, in turn, bloats the blood vessels, releasing plasma into the skin. This fluid collects in the skin and causes inflammation and itchy rashes on its surface (1).
Hives are also called weals, nettle rash, and welts and are commonly seen on arms, back, and feet (2).
Read on the causes of hives after pregnancy, their symptoms, treatment options, and possible complications.
What Are The Causes Of Hives After Pregnancy?
Hormonal changes and stress could be the common causes of hives after pregnancy. The other reasons that might trigger hives include (3):
- Acute medical conditions, such as thyroid (2)
- Certain medications, such as aspirin or penicillin
- Exposure to extreme heat (such as the sun) or cold conditions
- Seasonal allergies
- Food sensitivities
- Insect bites or stings
Are Hives Common After Pregnancy?
There are no studies to suggest how common hives are after pregnancy. Your chances of developing them postpartum, on exposure to triggers mentioned above, are the same as any other time. Anecdotal evidence suggests that hormonal fluctuations and stress after childbirth may increase the risk of hives postpartum, although that may not be the case for all women.
What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum Hives?
The general symptoms of hives may include any of the following (1):
- Itching, which may be severe
- Swelling of the skin surface with defined edges
- Pain or burning sensation
- Scaly skin
Hives may appear suddenly and clear within a few weeks.
How To Deal With Hives Post Pregnancy?
Postpartum hives may not need any medical treatment as they resolve on their own. However, you might take some measures to get relief from itching, pain, or burning sensation. These measures may also help you develop a smooth breastfeeding pattern.
- Wear breathable and light clothing.
- Take enough rest to avoid stress and anxiety at bay.
- Avoid using harsh soaps, lotions, and detergents (for your clothes).
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Place a humidifier or cold compress to soothe the affected skin region.
- Apply sunscreen lotion before going out in the sun and try to avoid triggers as much as possible.
- Use over the counter (OTC) topical creams that may soothe red and itchy bumps. Your doctor may prescribe a medicated cream or ointment, if necessary.
- Clove oil
- Icepack application
Home Remedies You May Try For Postpartum Hives
Here are a few home remedies that are believed to provide relief from the discomfort caused by hives.
- Oatmeal bath: The anti-inflammatory and soothing properties of oatmeal might give some relief from itching and swelling. Put one cup of oatmeal in a microfiber cloth and soak it in a bowl of hot water. Leave for about 10 to 15 minutes and add it to the bathtub. You may soak for around 15 minutes in this bath; following this regime every day might help (4).
- Aloe vera: Aloe vera is also known for its cooling effect on inflammation. Extract fresh aloe vera gel and apply it to the affected area (5). Leave for some time and wash with cold water.
- Turmeric: Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties (6). Add one teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of hot milk. You may add a pinch of black pepper powder and have it twice a day. However, there aren’t enough studies to support the efficacy of turmeric in dermatology.
- Chamomile tea: This could provide some relief from symptoms, such as inflammation, itching, and rash. Although there are no studies about its safety on postpartum women, there have not been any reports of its toxicity either (7). Take one tablespoon of dried chamomile in a cup of hot water. Allow it to steep for about five minutes, strain it, and have it once or twice a day.
How Long Do Hives Last After Pregnancy?
Acute hives are likely to last for six weeks. But if they remain even after six weeks and become episodic over months and years, they are considered to be chronic (2) and require a doctor’s attention.
Possible Complications Of Postpartum Hives
General complications of hives may include (1):
- Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that causes difficulty in breathing.
- Swelling of the throat that might cause blockage of airways.
Next, we address some commonly asked questions about hives after childbirth.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are postpartum hives contagious?
Hives may not be contagious unless they contain viruses that could be transmitted from one person to another. In general, they subside as you reduce your exposure to allergens or risk factors.
2. Can breastfeeding cause hives?
Some women who are prone to allergies are likely to experience milk ejection reflex while breastfeeding. This condition could result in symptoms such as redness, itching, rash, and hives on the chest, arms, and legs (8).
You may experience postpartum hives if exposed to any triggers, stress, or because of hormonal fluctuations. Though they are usually self-resolving and are not a cause for concern, you may get evaluated by your healthcare professional if you spot abnormal, multiple rashes on your body. Also, if you suspect that you could have developed hives after pregnancy due to some allergic reaction, you may avoid exposure to these allergens to prevent the recurrence of hives. Meanwhile, you may try some home care measures to get relief from the symptoms.
2. S J Deacock; An approach to the patient with urticaria; Clinical & Experimental Immunology (2008)
3. Hives (Urticaria); Harvard Health Publishing (2019)
4. Caring for Yourself During Pregnancy and Beyond; UCSF Medical Center
5. Mahtab Alam Khan; Shara (Urticaria); National Health Portal (2017)
6. Chaudhari SP et al.; Curcumin: A Contact Allergen; J Clin Aesthet Dermatol (2015)
7. Janmejai K Srivastava et al.; Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future; Molecular Medicine Reports (2010)
8. Gennaro Liccardi; Oxytocin: an unexpected risk for cardiologic and broncho-obstructive effects, and allergic reactions in susceptible delivering women; Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine (2013)
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