Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Postpartum hives

Yes, that's a lovely topic isn't it?

And yes, I've been really quiet on here lately. I'm trying to soak in every moment with my boys - and get back to work, too - and that's not leaving me loads of time to blog. But, I write a blog post at least once a day in my head. I just need to make it to the keyboard from time to time.

Anyways, postpartum hives is what I choose to write about after such a long break. Glorious, eh? But, I think it should be written.

For those that follow me on Facebook, or were blessed enough to see these hives in person, you know that I had a random hives occurence when Elias was about five weeks old. These things were disgusting. And when I say hives I mean huge welts that covered giant portions of my torso. There are photos, but I don't want to see them again myself, so I'm sure you don't want to check them out.

It all started with purchasing some of that famous Palmers cocoa butter lotion for stretch marks. I had had some previous stretch marks itching on my belly and thought that now was the time to soothe and get those bad boys fading. I applied the lotion and went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night itching like mad. I immediately thought of the lotion, ran downstairs and took a cold shower around 3 a.m. I thought I had an allergic reaction. Anywhere I scratched, red marks were appearing with bumps inside of the scratch marks. And these strange mosquito-looking bites were appearing and fading. The shower, plus some Benadryl calmed me down.

The next day, no sign of them. I told my friends what a horrible incident it was and I swore to never touch the Palmer's again. That night, at bedtime, the bumps were back. And worse. They were everywhere. And they kept popping up across my chest, where my bra straps were, pants waistband, anywhere that fabric was touching me with pressure. I was miserable. I took more Benadryl and tried to calm down.

The next day I called my OBGYN first thing and got an appointment. I thought maybe I had developed that PUPPS rash postpartum (which a quick Google search confirmed does happen). I was so sad thinking that this rash could be around for who knows how long. And that some people had to quit nursing to see improvement. I didn't want to do that. And in true Kira fashion, I was flipping out.

During the appointment my skin flared up more. Each of my breasts was a giant hive. They went around my back like giant burn marks almost. The OBGYN said she'd never seen anything like that, it wasn't PUPPS and recommended I see a dermatologist. Mine just happened to be in the same building, so I walked right up there and begged for an immediate appointment. I must have looked desperate (and gross), so they worked me in. The derm took one look at me and said, "Those are hives."

He proceeded to explain that hives are very common in the postpartum period (excuse me, what?). He said that he doubted it was based on an allergy. He didn't think it was related to the lotion I mentioned. And that it would just take some time to go away. He prescribed a regimen of Allegra and Tagamet (usually for heartburn, it is used to boost antihistamines) every 12 hours. I started the meds, saw a tiny bit of improvement and hit up Whole Foods for anything oatmeal and soothing in their bath department.

I was a wreck. I cried and cried. Google made it seem like this happen to lots of women, and they associated it with postpartum hormones and breastfeeding. A quick call to my doula resources made that breastfeeding thing seem ridiculous, which helped to somewhat calm me. Still, there were loads of other women out there that had these hives. Some even noted that it began after using Palmers (but most women use Palmers at some point or another, right?).

The more I freaked out, the more the hives came. That night, they spread like wildfire. They were up and down my legs, around my chest and waist, up and down my arms. (Holy crap I'm itching just typing this.) In a panic, I called my dermatologist. He leaves his cell number on his office phone for emergencies and this felt like one to me. Despite all the meds, I was exploding in GIANT hives.

He calmly said that this is normal. That again, these things happen. He sees it often. To take the meds every 8 hours if that's what it took to keep the hives away. He assured me this was compatible with nursing and told me to get some rest. That night, I took the Allegra, Tagamet and Benadryl more often. (The pediatrician, pharmacist, dermatologist and OBGYN all ok'ed these drugs, by the way.)

The 8-hour cycle seemed to keep the hives at bay. I was scared about my milk supply and began pumping after day time feedings to up my supply gradually. (Looking back, I don't think my supply was affected. I actually ended up with lots of milk from all that pumping.) So, I went to bed that night hopeful that the hives would stay away. Night time was their worst time. And that night, my face joined the mix. My lips were huge. My eyelids almost swelled shut. There were hives along my chin and forehead - in addition to the rest of my body. I came downstairs in tears and showed Rusty. He was a little in shock at that point. I think we both thought the worst was over. Again, I called my dermatologist. He kind of irritated me with his tone. I explained, crying, that I was a new mom, I was hormonal and terrified that I was going to stop breathing or something. These hives were taking over my face at this point. He assured me that this was again, normal. I took Benadryl, held Rusty's hand and finally fell asleep. I had to wake up in the middle of the night and put my hands in a bowl of ice water, they were so swollen with hives. And on fire.

The next day the derm called me to see how I was. I said the hives were going away again. He said to stay on the meds for two weeks and try to come off them and see what happens. If the hives came back, to repeat for another two weeks. I cried and flipped out. I was going to have to deal with this for weeks? I called my regular practice doctor who agreed that I should take the meds more often and even suggested something stronger. I also went to my psychiatrist because upping my Zoloft amount happened around the same time, so we thought maybe it was freak side effect? Not likely, but we switched my meds to Lexapro just in case.

I talked to a friend who is a nurse. She told me that I needed to pray about it. She assured me that this was all normal hives behavior. It was unlikely I was reacting to something and would have some kind of breathing troubles at this point. I knew I needed to get a grip and give this to God. I just was having a hard time doing so. I talked to another friend who deals with hives from time to time. She told me that stress aggravates them. That I needed to calm down, keep cool (literally and figureatively) and get ahead of these things. Another friend sent me some Bible verses that spoke to my heart. I prayed them and tried to calm my spirit. My mom and I decided I needed to read a book or something at night when I was nursing. Clearly, without the distraction I was stressing too much. It must have all worked because that night, no hives. Praise the Lord!

From that point on, no more hives. I weaned myself off the meds a week or so later and so far so good. The only thing I can think of is that during that time I changed fabric softener sheets. Maybe that was related? Or maybe, as the dermatologist said, these things can just happen postpartum. I've since heard of others with similar cases. It kind of blows my mind to think about the power of our hormones and all that's going on in my body after having a baby.

So, I'm writing this all here thinking that maybe another panicked mom will be Googling one night, covered in hives, and freaking out. To that mom, I say this: take the meds, take them more often than it says if you need to, try to stay calm and they will go away. It totally, totally, totally sucks. I know. Damn it sucked. I'm so thankful they have passed. Let's just hope they stay away!

Now that I'm itching all over.... eek.... I'm now banning the word 'hives' from my blog.

**Note from February 2013: If you're reading this and you're suffering from postpartum hives and you need someone to pray for you or offer words of encouragement - please email me (email address over to the right over there). Or leave your email address in a comment. We can be a support system for each other. It's truly, truly a horrific experience during one of the most beautiful phases of you life. I'd love to help however I can.**


Anonymous said...

I am currently covered in postpartum hives! I just finished a cycle of steroids that my doctor prescribed because one of my eyes was swollen shut and my ear looked like it was going to explode! I am also taking 3 other meds they prescribed me and they hives are back cause the steroids are done! These are AWFUL! It's kind of nice to read that someone else went through the exact same thing although it still feels like I'll have them forever!

Katie & Ryan said...

Hi I am in the hospital now (gave birth last tuesday) and the hives started to get really bad this Sunday. I am scared out of my mind and hate that I am away from my baby. If you could email me at I would love to hear from someone who has been through this. Every doctor I see is baffled (an allergist is being called in to see me tomorrow, so hopefully they have seen this before). Any guidance you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Elayna and Thomas Roberts said...

I would love to know the Bible verses!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! I am covered in postpartum hives at the moment!

Kira said...

Oh no, I'm so sorry to hear this. Please feel free to email me at if I can be of any help in any way. Even if it's just someone to email and complain to about how awful they are -- because THEY ARE AWFUL.

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I will be upping my meds tomorrow!!

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I will be upping my meds tomorrow!!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I gave birth December 9th and I'm suffering. Thank you, thank you for making me feel like I am still a sane individual and haven't completely lost my mind. I am desperately praying for relief!

Anonymous said...

My hives started at 37 weeks, only on my belly--which was enormous, so no surprise there. I looked it up, figured it was PUPPPs, read in What to Expect that it goes away "about a week after delivery." NOPE.

I delivered 3 weeks later, the hives immediately left the stomach area--and promptly spread to my back/"love handles." Then my thighs. Anywhere with stretch marks. But pretty soon it spread to my arms and the backs of my knees. The final straw was the breasts. As if breastfeeding wasn't hard enough.

It's now 3 and a half weeks postpartum and at its worst. Nothing helps--prescription steroid creams, otc creams, oatmeal baths, lotions, Benadryl. It's all temporary relief at best.

***I don't know if this will work for everyone, but the ONE thing I've tried that works instantly and lasts a while is Desitin.*** I suppose calamine lotion would also work, since it's the same main ingredient, but I like the thickness of the Desitin, I think it helps it last longer. Not to mention I got a TON of it at the baby shower, so may as well. Best of luck to every other mom out there suffering with this!

Noelle said...

Nice to know that I am not the only one going through this. I would love prayer. I think my mom is stressing me out as well and I got the worse bout of hives last night. She says I have to ask Good why this is happening and to possibly think what God is teaching me. so frustrating. please email me

Anonymous said...

Oh thank you so much! For some reason my computer would not let me open any of the other sites about hives after pregnancy and I finally got your page to open. I am suffering with the hives too. God made me read your blog rather than any other article to ensure that I got the best advice!

Miflezet said...

Thank you!!!! I am on the road to recovery (or so it seems) from a HORRIBLE episode of hives. Four months post partum. The symptoms got so bad, and I had a reaction to the steroids (throwing up any drop of water getting into me, to the point of dehydration :( ) which placed me for a full night at the ER and stop breastfeeding for the next week at least.
The knowledge that it has to do with my hormones and not a product or pollen, offers relief, as I am praying this is my one and only episode, never to be repeated again!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kira,
Thanks so much for blogging about postpartum hives. I found your blog on a Google search. I had hives for the first time when I was 7 months pregnant; they lasted the weekend and vanished. The Dr. and I figured it was from a medicine I had taken for a problem during pregnancy which was caused by “too much estrogen” and "hormones out of control." (Dr.’s words, not mine)

One year later, baby is now 8 months old, I took the same medicine again for the same, never going away OBGYN problem, and boom--- hives, very, very badly. Horrible. Worst ever.

I have now had hives for 3 months! I have had numerous blood work done, visited an allergist, GP, and Derm...everyone says the same, "treat the hives, they will eventually go away." But, it is so disheartening. I get hives when I shower, when I work out, when the kids crawl all over me, when clothing rubs. I get hives in my ear canals, on my arms, legs, scalp, everywhere. Yes, everywhere :(

I am convinced that they are somehow related to postpartum hormones. I never had skin problems until I was 7 months pregnant w/#2. At 6 weeks post-baby I went back on "the pill," and haven't been right since. I think my body is on estrogen over-load still.

It has been a year since the original out-break, which disappeared, but reared its ugly head at 8 months post. I have gone off the pill to try to balance my hormones naturally. Besides the hives I still cry like a pregnant lady and can smell the grocery store from a mile away--- again, I’m not doctor, but I thought that would end after pregnancy!
I continue to pray that these horrible, itchy bumps go away soon.
Just wondering, did you have your hives with both pregnancies? Or, if it was the 1st, did you get them again with #2? I hope to have more kids but am scared. I couldn't imagine hives for 9 pregnant months.
Thanks- N

Kira said...

Ah, oh goodness, oh goodness. The hives comments and emails keep coming and I am so thankful that there's a way I can somehow help (even if only to understand your misery). It boggles my mind that so many moms have these things but no one really ever talks about it. And my OB seemed shocked.

Anyways, I'm so sorry to hear about your episodes of hives. Sounds like from the shower/clothing description that yours are triggered with heat or friction (of course on top of whatever is really causing them). It IS so frustrating to hear 'they will go away, we just don't know when'. I NEEDED to know when. If I had known they'd only last a few weeks, I would have been a lot calmer at the time. I hated the unknown, and I'm sure you do too. Especially since this keeps going for you for months. Do antihistamines calm them once they start? Are you taking them around the clock? That's what I had to do to suppress them.

To answer your questions -- I haven't been on the pill since having kids, so I can't speak to if that helps or doesn't help. But, maybe it will help to know that I had zero hives or sign of a hive with my first birth. This only popped up postpartum with my second son. So, I don't think it's a 'definite'. Both of my pregnancies were very different. I think our bodies just handle each one in its own way. So, don't think the worst!

God, please be with these ladies and other mommas out there suffering from hives. Help them to feel comforted and find relief. And to trust that their bodies just did something amazing (gave birth!) and will settle back down in time. Place your healing hand on each of them. Amen.

Write me if you'd like, N. My email address is kira kroboth @ gmail dot com.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kira, you're so very kind!

One day at a time, right? Your response back means a lot. I'll keep in touch, hopefully with "hive-free" news :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kira for this Blog post!!!! I've been praying also. I do have a question - when you mention at the end of the post to "take the meds", do mean the regular dosage of Allegra and Tagamet every 12 hours?

Anonymous said...

I experienced something similar, but I am about 99% sure mine was directly related to breastfeeding. I had a c-section March 2012 and from the day my milk came in, I would break out in hives immediately after every breastfeeding. They were only on my arms and legs, concentrated around my knees and elbows. They were so swollen I could hardly bend my knees anymore. My OB recommended taking Benadryl which I did every 4 hours for several days. My daughter's pediatrician then recommended Zyrtec instead, which I took every day for another couple weeks. I also used hydrocortisone cream for a little while. They finally went away after about 3 weeks. From what I've researched about it, some women experience the hives due to hormones released during the milk letdown. I talked to an LC about it and she said drinking red raspberry leaf tea is supposed to help with milk letdowns and to give that a try. I've also heard that it could be something releated to all the pain meds you're on after a c-section as well. I'm about 8 months pregnant and am having another c-section in 4 weeks. I am super nervous that I will experience this again, or that it will be even worse this time. Thanks for sharing your story and for all the positive thoughts and prayers! Any advice anyone has for this time around would be greatly appreciated! :)

Mrs. Kitchen said...

Thank you! I am that mom freaking out about why I'm breaking out in hives. My baby is one month old. It is comforting to know I'm not alone. Thanks for posting! This made me feel better.

Megan Czarnocki said...

Sitting in bed with an epipen.. Prayer would be very welcome . Thanks for posting.

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