We are often asked about hives and pregnancy and if hives during pregnancy is a common condition. Pregnant women certainly can get hives, for all of the same reasons people can get hives when they are not pregnant. Many women actually find that their skin improves during pregnancy, however, and that they are less like to experience hives while pregnant even if they sometimes experienced hives prior to their pregnancy. Unfortunately, that is not the case for all women.
While many women find that their skin improves in health and appearance during pregnancy, hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy as well as increased blood volume can lead to the production of increased histamines(1), chemicals in the body that can cause hives. Pregnancy-related weight gain may also lead to increased sweating, which can sometimes trigger hives. Some people develop hives as a result of pressure on the skin and pregnancy-related weight gain can increase the amount of pressure from things like sitting in one position for a while. Of course, pregnancy can be a stressful time for moms-to-be and stress can also trigger hives.
In most cases, though, hives that occur during pregnancy are not actually caused by the pregnancy but by something else, such as an allergic reaction to food, medication or something in the environment. Hives might also occur due to an infection, virus or parasite of some kind.
Hives are usually not a symptom of anything serious or dangerous for either mother or baby, although they can be very uncomfortable. Just to be safe, though, if you are experiencing hives and pregnancy, you need to see your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Besides, even if your condition is not harmful, hives are uncomfortable and pregnancy carries enough discomforts already. You don’t need to deal with hives at the same time.
Antihistamines are often used to treat hives but there is some disagreement among medical professionals about whether or not antihistamines are safe for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Talk with your doctor or midwife about the risks and benefits of using antihistamines while pregnant and about other options for treating your hives, including natural remedies. Don’t take any over-the-counter medications without first consulting your doctor or midwife.
Rarely, hives are accompanied by swelling in the throat, which can be harmful or even life-threatening. If you have hives and also have trouble breathing or swallowing, have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room or call 911 right away.
There are some simple things you can do at home while you’re waiting to get in to see your health care provider or if you and your health care provider decide not to try medications to treat your hives. Try to avoid things that trigger your hives as much as you can, whether it’s certain foods, wool clothing, pet dander, certain soaps, too much exposure to sunlight or extremes in temperatures. Reducing your stress might help, if you’re able to do that. Things like gentle exercise, yoga, meditation or simply taking time out to relax all help with managing stress.
You might find applying cool wet compresses to the area affected by hives provides some relief. Taking a cool bath with oatmeal (look for colloidal oatmeal at any drugstore, which is finely ground oatmeal that won’t clog up your bathtub drain) or baking soda added to the water can also relieve itching temporarily. If the itching is keeping you awake at night or causing you to scratch so much it breaks your skin, talk to your health care provider about other ways to manage the itching.
(1)LiveStrong: Pregnancy and Hives