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The joy of having a newborn baby is like no other. However, for some new mothers, this joy may be interrupted if they begin experiencing postpartum hives.
Hives, also known as urticaria, are skin rashes that are itchy and can be red or skin colored. They occur when the body’s immune system reacts to allergens and produces histamine and other chemicals.
These substances cause the small blood vessels to swell and release fluid into the skin, leading to inflammation and itchy rashes on the surface of the skin. (1)
During the third trimester of pregnancy, when the belly is stretched to accommodate the growing baby, some women may develop itchy bumps on their skin. These bumps are called papules and can be about 1–2 mm in size.
These papules can come together and form larger plaques, which are like big patches of itchy skin. They usually show up suddenly after giving birth. (2) Hives, also known as weals, welts, and nettle rash, usually develop on the back, arms, and feet.
Hives after pregnancy can be triggered by hormonal changes and stress. Medical conditions such as thyroid problems, specific drugs, exposure to extreme temperatures, allergic predispositions, sensitivity to food, and insect stings may also contribute to postpartum hives. (3)(4)
The good news is that postpartum hives are manageable. This article will discuss how to deal with postpartum hives, including remedies and other treatment options.
Treatment Options for Postpartum Hives
Several treatment options are available for postpartum hives, including medications, lifestyle changes, and natural remedies.
Natural remedies to deal with postpartum hives
Some natural remedies may help soothe the skin and reduce itching. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before using any natural remedies, as they may interact with other medications you are taking.
1. Take an oatmeal bath daily
If you’re experiencing the discomfort of postpartum hives, oatmeal might just be your new best friend.
How to use oatmeal to relieve itching and swelling caused by hives:
- Grab a cup of oatmeal and wrap it in a microfiber cloth.
- Soak the oatmeal-filled cloth in a bowl of hot water for 10–15 minutes.
- Add the cloth to your bathtub and soak in the oatmeal-infused water for about 15 minutes.
- Repeat this routine daily to experience maximum relief from postpartum hives.
2. Apply turmeric paste to the affected area
Recent research has shown that a compound found in turmeric called curcumin may have anti-inflammatory effects that could help with hives.
A study conducted on healthy subjects found that daily consumption of a hot water extract of turmeric (Curcuma longa) resulted in a reduction of inflammation caused by exposure to UVB radiation, confirming its anti-inflammatory use.
Additionally, the study found that curcumin increased hyaluronan production in the skin, which suggests that curcumin may be an effective moisturizing agent that could help alleviate the dryness and itchiness associated with hives.
While more research is needed to confirm these findings, it’s certainly worth considering adding turmeric to your diet or using it topically to see if it helps with your hives symptoms. (6)
However, talk to your healthcare provider before using turmeric for hives.
Here’s how to use turmeric for hives:
- Add turmeric to your diet.
- Make a turmeric paste by mixing turmeric powder with water or coconut oil, and then apply it topically to affected areas. Leave the paste on for 20–30 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water. Do this every day.
3. Apply chamomile tea bags
Did you know that chamomile tea may be a simple and natural home remedy for hives? Chamomile flowers contain anti-inflammatory and antiphlogistic properties, which means they may help reduce the inflammation and itching caused by hives. (7)
Research has shown that chamomile flavonoids and essential oils can penetrate the deeper skin layers, making them effective as topical anti-inflammatory agents. Thus, chamomile tea may be effective in reducing the symptoms of hives, such as itching. (7)
How to use chamomile tea for hives:
- Steep a chamomile tea bag in hot water for several minutes
- Allow it to cool.
- Apply the tea to the affected areas with a clean cloth.
4. Perform cold compress on the affected region
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, cold compresses may be a viable option to manage hives. (8)
How to apply a cold compress for hives:
- Grab some ice cubes from your freezer and wrap them in a clean towel.
- Apply the cold compress to the affected area for 10–15 minutes. Avoid leaving the cold compress on for too long, as this could cause skin damage.
Postpartum hives can sometimes be treated with cold therapy, but it’s important to be cautious. One complication is a condition called cold urticaria, which is basically an allergic reaction to cold temperatures.
To avoid any serious consequences, it’s crucial to be aware of and avoid cold exposure if you have cold urticaria. Life-threatening situations can arise if you’re not careful.
Doctors use a diagnostic test to confirm urticarial complications such as cold urticaria, one of which is the cold stimulation test. It involves placing an ice cube on your skin and observing how your skin reacts when it warms up again. (9)
5. Use fresh aloe vera gel on the hives
Aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory properties that can help with hives.
A study showed that aloe gel can reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in human cells. This means that aloe gel may be helpful in reducing the inflammation and itching associated with hives. (10)
How to use aloe gel for hives:
- Cut off a piece of fresh aloe vera leaf, and remove the outer layer to reveal the clear gel inside.
- Apply the gel directly to the affected area and gently massage it in.
- Allow the gel to sink in for at least 10–15 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water.
6. Apply calamine lotion to the affected regions
Calamine lotion has a long history of being used as a home remedy for skin issues, as it can help soothe skin. Additionally, it has antipruritic (anti-itching) properties, which can be very helpful in managing the discomfort caused by hives.
While more research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness, many people find calamine lotion to be a useful tool in managing their hives at home. (11)
7. Use coconut oil to soothe the skin
Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been traditionally used as a moisturizer and has been shown to improve symptoms of skin disorders by moisturizing and soothing the skin.
Studies have found that VCO has anti-inflammatory properties. It can inhibit the production of inflammatory markers such as TNF-α, and IL-5, which are associated with skin inflammation.
Based on these findings, VCO can be a valuable addition to skin care formulations and may provide relief for postpartum hives. So, consider giving it a try as a natural remedy to soothe and nourish your skin. (12)
For postpartum hives, antihistamines are usually recommended to block the effect of histamine, a chemical in the skin that causes allergy symptoms. Nondrowsy antihistamines are preferred, and your allergist may suggest using 2–3 of them to ease the symptoms.
In severe cases, temporary treatment with prednisone or an immune modulator may be necessary. (8)
Note: If you experience swelling of the tongue or lips or have trouble breathing, immediate care may be needed, and you should go to the emergency room immediately.
Additional Tips for Managing Postpartum Hives
Here are some additional steps you can take to deal with postpartum hives: (8)
- Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms to prevent hives from appearing.
- To avoid worsening hives, avoid rubbing or scratching the affected areas. Consider taking frequent baths with mild soap to soothe your skin.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes to relieve pressure hives, which can be caused by tight clothing.
- If you develop hives when exposed to cold, wear warm clothing and use a scarf around your nose and mouth in cold weather.
- Use wet, soaked wraps to soothe hives.
- Treat yourself to a relaxing bath with cool to lukewarm water, depending on your preference.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing protective clothing and applying sunblock.
- Inform your healthcare professionals instantly if you doubt that a distinct drug is causing your hives. They can determine the best course of action.
What Causes Postpartum Hives?
Postpartum hives can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, stress, and allergies. (3)
During pregnancy, the body undergoes significant hormonal changes, and after delivery, there is a sudden drop in hormone levels, which can trigger hives. Plus, during the third semester, the belly stretches to accommodate the space for the baby. (2)
Additionally, the stress of childbirth can lead to the development of hives, and some new mothers may develop an allergic reaction to certain foods or medications, leading to hives.
Symptoms of Postpartum Hives
Hives symptoms can vary in duration, from short bursts to persisting for months or even years. Although they may look like bug bites, hives have unique characteristics.
They can pop up anywhere on your body, change shape and location, come and go quickly, and leave behind red or skin-colored bumps with clear edges that can blanch (turn white) when pressed in the center. (8)
How Common Are Hives After Pregnancy?
According to dermatologists, postpartum hives are most common in women at around 36 weeks of pregnancy or right after giving birth. There isn’t any research to show how often hives happen after childbirth.
But personal accounts indicate that hormone changes and stress after childbirth might raise the risk of postpartum hives, but this may not be true for every woman.
Preventing Postpartum Hives
While it is not always possible to prevent postpartum hives, here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- If you know you are allergic to certain foods or medications, make sure to avoid them.
- Finding ways to manage stress, such as meditation and yoga, can help reduce your risk of developing hives.
- Drinking plenty of water can help reduce the risk of developing hives.
- If you have a history of allergies or have experienced hives in the past, make sure to talk to your doctor before giving birth.
- Having someone assist you with the baby can reduce stress and give you the opportunity to rest, which can help improve your hives.
- Don’t ignore your own needs. Take breaks, practice self-care, and prioritize your well-being.
What Can Trigger Hives?
The following could be triggering your hives: (8)
- Foods such as eggs, nuts, and shellfish
- Medications, such as antibiotics, aspirin, and ibuprofen
- Insect bites and stings
- Pressure, extreme temperatures, physical activity, and even too much sun exposure
- Latex, blood transfusions, and infections such as strep throat or the common cold
- Pet dander, pollen, and certain plants
When to See a Doctor
Hives can be a pesky problem, and sometimes they can stick around for longer than you’d like.
If you’ve been itching for over a month, it might be time to pay a visit to an allergist. They’ll ask you about your symptoms and give you a thorough checkup to get to the bottom of the issue.
You might even need to take a skin test or challenge test to find out what’s causing your hives.
Most-Asked Questions About Postpartum Hives
Are postpartum hives dangerous?
Postpartum hives are typically not dangerous and can be easily treated with medication or lifestyle changes, but extreme allergic reactions can be life-threatening and should be immediately reported.
How long do postpartum hives last?
The duration of postpartum hives can vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the symptoms.
Can postpartum hives recur in subsequent pregnancies?
Yes, postpartum hives can recur in subsequent pregnancies, particularly if the underlying cause is hormonal changes.
Postpartum hives can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition for new mothers, but they are treatable and manageable. It is important to understand the causes and symptoms of postpartum hives, as well as the available treatment options.
If you suspect you have postpartum hives, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.