The chances are your body’s going to do some unexpected things in your first weeks postpartum. And while most of us were prepared for even the most bizarre pregnancy symptoms, postpartum night sweats, headaches, and even rashes can still take us by surprise. Postpartum hives are super common, but also pretty annoying.
So if you’re asking yourself ‘Why is my skin so itchy after giving birth?’ here are some answers (and some effective remedies too).
What are postpartum hives?
Hives are a raised, bumpy, and often itchy rash on your skin. They can be red, pink, large, small, individual, or run together. They can even blister.
You might have seen them before as an allergic reaction, but they can also appear after you have a baby.
It’s all to do with your immune system, which (along with your hormone levels) takes a bit of a dive right after you deliver your little one.
You’re more likely to get postpartum hives if you’ve had similar rashes before. But it’s not uncommon to get hives for the first time in the days after you give birth.
There’s good news, though! 1. Hives are not contagious, so you can’t pass them on to your little one. And 2. Having postpartum hives is usually just a one-time thing. It doesn’t mean that you’ll have any new allergies once your body is back to a more normal balance.
What causes postpartum hives?
Looking for something to blame for your postpartum hives? That would be histamines (i.e. the thing that Benadryl and similar medications are very much anti-).
Histamines are a protein that your body releases when it senses that it’s under attack from an allergen.
This is a great defense but, when your body overreacts, it causes an allergic reaction, whether that’s sneezing, red eyes, or (in this case) a rash on any part of your body.
Another reason for your postpartum rash might be your liver.
Around delivery, it can be a little slower to remove waste from your body, and this can also lead to a rash.
Your liver function is one of the things that’s monitored with routine blood tests through your pregnancy and after you give birth, though, so this doesn’t need to be a major worry.
How long do postpartum hives last?
A rash after pregnancy usually starts within the first 48 hours after birth, but it can also appear at any point in the first six weeks.
Generally, they’re gone before this six-week milestone too, although some new mamas with a serious case may be treating them for up to 12 weeks.
Can breastfeeding cause hives?
Not really. Postpartum hives are linked to the abrupt changes your body goes through after you give birth.
So breastfeeding is unlikely to be responsible for your rash.
Other reasons for your postpartum rash
You’ve got a lot going on when you’ve got a new baby.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean your skin is going to behave, and all the normal reasons behind a rash can still be an issue.
So if what you have isn’t true postpartum hives, it might be:
Especially if you have sensitive skin, you might well be allergic to something in the hospital.
This is more likely if you have a rash after a c-section, since you probably washed with antibacterial soap before the planned operation.
And your medical team will have used a lot of surgical tape and disinfectants during your surgery.
Most women find that they sweat a lot as their bodies get rid of the extra fluid they needed during pregnancy – especially at night.
If your little one is a summer baby, it can also get pretty sticky when you have them in a baby carrier, or when they only want to nap on top of you. Extra moisture = upset skin.
Lack of sleep, no time for a healthy meal, extra stress – it’s easy for your body to get run down after you give birth. This makes you more vulnerable to bugs and viruses.
Even the common cold virus can sometimes cause a rash. So if your hives are accompanied by any other symptoms like aching joints or a sore throat, it’s worth taking yourself to a doctor.
And remember, you should always call your doctor if you have a fever in the first weeks after giving birth.
Although it doesn’t normally cause a rash, if you have stitches after giving birth, either vaginally or by c-section, they can itch a lot as they start to heal.
It’s uncomfortable, but it’s a sign that your body’s doing what it should, and things should feel a lot less irritated within a week.
Postpartum hives treatment
If your hives are stubborn, or if they’re particularly itchy, your doctor will be able to recommend an antihistamine or a cream that’s safe to use.
There are lots of options here – from topical steroids to soothing lotions – which should give you some relief.
Postpartum hives home remedies
If you’d rather stay away from prescription medications, there are some things you can do at home to make your skin feel a little calmer.
- Take regular cool showers. Hot water is pretty irritating on sensitive skin, and women are often advised to wait until after their six-week checkup before taking a full bath. But a shower that’s on the colder side can do wonders for your hives.
- Apply aloe vera – either fresh or in gel form – for 20 minutes. You’ll feel cooler in no time.
- Try creams containing shea butter or oat milk. Both of these are naturally soothing.
- Wear loose clothing. When things get itchy, cotton and linen are your friends.
So hang in there, mama. With any luck, your rash will disappear as quickly as it popped up, and you’ll be back to itch-free snuggles with your newborn in no time.
More on postpartum life:
10 Postpartum Exercise Tips for New Mamas
11 Postpartum Sex Tips From Real Moms
Postpartum Bleeding: What’s Normal and What’s Not
Your Guide to Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms
How to Deal With Postpartum Gas
10 Ideas for a Nutritious Postpartum Diet
A Guide to the Best Types of Postpartum Massage
An Intro to Postpartum Yoga
What are the Possible Postpartum Complications?
Postpartum Hemorrhoids: What You Need to Know
What’s Causing My Postpartum Headache?
25 Postpartum Essentials to Know About
How to Manage Postpartum Hypertension
Your (Realistic) Postpartum Workout Plan