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What are the Common Causes of Hives During Pregnancy?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The fact that some women have to deal with hives during pregnancy along with the various other symptoms that occur is unfortunate, but the good news is that this condition is considered quite rare. One of the main causes is the release of different hormones, which can result in the body releasing histamines that dry out the skin. Another cause is Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy, or PUPP, which can result in hives all over the body. Finally, the fact that pregnancy tends to stretch out the skin, depleting the moisture in it, means that some women can get hives on their stomach.

During pregnancy, there is a sudden imbalance of progesterone and estrogen in the body, which can cause certain antibodies to be released. This is most common in first-time mothers since the body assumes that the embryo is a foreign object that it has never seen before, prompting it to release antibodies to fight off what it assumes is an infection. Once these antibodies bind to the skin, the body increases its production of histamines, causing hives all over the body. Fortunately, these hives can typically be treated with antihistamines that have been confirmed as being safe for pregnant women to take.

One cause of hives during pregnancy is the aforementioned Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques, often referred to as PUPP. It tends to occur most often in the third trimester, resulting in itchy hives all over the body. Although this condition is usually considered harmless to both the mother and the unborn baby, it is typically quite uncomfortable, and does not often respond to antihistamines alone. Therefore, many women are prescribed oral steroids when necessary to control the itching, though this is usually a last resort since such medications are not typically ideal during pregnancy. If the body still does not respond to this treatment, the woman may be induced a few weeks early, especially if there is fear of infection due to any bleeding hives.

In some cases, the cause of hives during pregnancy is just due to dry skin, as it typically loses moisture as it is stretched out. This is often the cause when the hives appear only on the stomach, especially if it has grown particularly quickly. In such cases, stretch marks may also be present since they tend to occur when the skin is stretched quickly and is unable to repair itself due to lack of moisture. Women may be able to prevent hives during pregnancy due to dry skin by keeping the area moisturized with lotion. It is also often advised that pregnant women avoid using harsh soaps that tend to dry out the skin, as mild soap followed by cocoa butter or similar lotions can lock in moisture.

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Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for TheHealthBoard, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.

Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On Jan 03, 2014

@SarahGen-- Did you take any medications recently, like antibiotics?

I'm guessing that you didn't because it's your first trimester, but some antibiotics can trigger an urticarial rash or hives. I had to take antibiotics during the second trimester because of a urinary tract infection. It made me break out in hives but the rash disappeared after my treatment was complete.

By bluedolphin — On Jan 02, 2014

@SarahGen-- I had hives and itching during my pregnancy because of hormones. It occurred on and off almost the entire nine months. Unfortunately, there wasn't much I could do aside from using skin moisturizer often and avoiding irritants.

During pregnancy, hormones change like the article said and we become very sensitive. Even things that don't normally irritate us can irritate our skin during pregnancy. Your doctor will make the call about the cause of your hives and the treatment. I can only recommend using a natural moisturizer to relieve itching.

By SarahGen — On Jan 02, 2014

I've had hives since last week and I'm three months pregnant. I'm seeing my doctor this afternoon. I hope that it's not due to hormones. What if it lasts during my entire pregnancy?! That will be awful.

Has anyone experienced hives or a rash during pregnancy? Did you figure out the cause and how did you treat it?

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for TheHealthBoard, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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