What You Need to Know about Postpartum Hives
Wondering why hives pop up after delivery and how to deal with them? Let's go through what postpartum hives are, how to keep your symptoms in check using home remedies, and when to seek professional help.
As a new or expectant mom, knowing what to expect after childbirth is invaluable for planning your postpartum care. You’re probably so focused on your little bundle of joy that you put your health and well-being in the back-burner.
Unfortunately, most mothers who have a history of hives, eczema, and other skin conditions notice they tend to creep back after childbirth, or during pregnancy. Other moms may encounter postpartum hives for the first time after giving birth.
Wondering why hives pop up after delivery and how to deal with them? In this explainer article, I’ll walk you through what postpartum hives are, how to keep your symptoms in check using home remedies, and when to seek professional help.
What are postpartum hives?
Hives are a non-contagious skin condition often marked by bumpy, itchy rashes. Also called nettle rashes, welts, weals, or urticarial, these inflamed skin rashes can appear as either red spots or red raised patches. Hives most commonly affect your back, feet, arms, but they can pop on your stomach, chest, neck, legs, or even face, too.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, hives affect roughly 20% of Americans sometime in the course of their lives. What’s more, at least 20 percent of mothers experience hives after childbirth, in which case they’re known as postpartum hives. It’s one of the several skin conditions that creep in for the first time or worsen during pregnancy or after delivery. The others include eczema, dark spots, acne, and pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPS)1.
In some moms, hives show up soon after childbirth, while others experience them later in the postpartum phase. They normally appear on your feet, back, and arms, though some moms have reported seeing them on their stomachs and legs, as well.
What are the signs and symptoms of postpartum hives?
Postpartum hives emerge as red raised bumps, spots, or rashes on the skin. You can easily confuse them with other common skin rashes, like eczema. However, if you have postpartum hives, you may witness the following symptoms and signs:
- Swollen, flat bumps that may coalesce on the skin
- Skin rashes on the back, feet, arms, chest, face, neck, legs, or stomach … practically anywhere on the body
- Skin bumps that turn patchy, white, or Blanche when pressed
- Bumpy rashes or spots which appear skin-colored, red, or pink
- Patches, large flat bumps, or single welts on the skin
- Eczema-like rough skin texture
What causes postpartum hives?
Hives are generally a telltale symptom or sign that something is off with your immune system. These skin rashes develop due to a negative immune response to the presence of histamine. This is a special mediator protein that is produced as a result of allergic reactions, inflammations, or psychological issues like anxiety and stress.
Normally, there's a myriad of potential reasons for hives so it might be tricky to pinpoint the actual culprit. However, it's thought that postpartum hives tend to flare up due to hormonal shifts during pregnancy and post-baby2.
After childbirth, the mother’s immune system tends to favor certain types of immune cells, which may spark the flaring up of hives. If it’s your first time getting hives postpartum, the cause is almost always linked to your recent childbirth. The good thing is that you’ll most likely not get hives once your hormonal balance has been restored.
Other possible causes of postpartum hives may include:
- Certain food or drinks, such as eggs, nuts, dairy, shellfish, wheat, or soybeans
- Exposure to sudden changes in environmental conditions like temperatures or intense sunlight
- Anxiety and stress, often seen in moms struggling with postpartum stress
- Certain medications like ibuprofen
- Lethargic liver – also symptomized by fever, bloating, hypertension, and fatigue
- Infections, including respiratory or urinary tract infections
- Allergies from stings, food, insect bites, chemicals, etc.
- Certain health conditions like acute thyroid disease
Home remedies for postpartum hives
Postpartum hives usually resolve by itself one to six weeks after childbirth. But the itchiness and burning from the skin rashes can be quite annoying and disconcerting, not to mention they can be unsightly. Add a crying baby, postpartum stress, and lack of sleep to the mix, and hives can make you go off the rail.
Thankfully, the following home remedies can help you get a handle on itching and soothe the skin:
- Aloe Vera cream/lotion – This is a remarkable source of the calming and skin-enriching Vitamin E. It can also control itching.
- Cool baths – If it's allergies that are causing the hives, the bath can rinse allergens away. You can also sprinkle the bathwater with some baking soda. You must take a cold bath. If the water is too hot, it can make swelling, inflammation, and itching linger for long.
- Oatmeal baths – Just like baking soda, oatmeal can transform your bath into a calming sensation. Make sure to use a cup of uncooked or finely ground oatmeal on a cool bath. This will help ease pain and soothe itching.
- Wet wraps – Simply use wet wraps (preferably cold) on the affected areas. This will soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.
- Topical creams – You can apply soothing natural topicals on the skin, such as shea butter lotion.
- Cold compress – This helps shrink blood vessels and thus reduce the flow of histamine. The cold press can also offer relief from swelling, itching, and inflammation.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medication – Avoid ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and other NSAIDs that may cause or exacerbate postpartum hives. Go for acetaminophen and OTC antihistamines, such as pheniramine
When to consult a professional
As a general rule of caution, inform your doctor or OB/GYN if and when you get postpartum hives. More so, seek professional help immediately if you experience fainting, dizziness, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the tongue, throat, mouth, lips, or race. See a dermatologist if postpartum hives show up more than once.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Sara Gale
Sara loves traveling and exploring new places with her family. She is mom to 2 lovely children and loves bringing them out on adventures.