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Pregnancy not only takes you on a roller coaster of emotions but also introduces changes in your body that are uncalled for. While the pregnancy glow is an undeniable add-on, other things like pregnancy rashes, stretch marks, and other skin conditions are the more undesirable parts of the package.
What Are Pregnancy Rashes?
Rashes are skin conditions that present themselves during pregnancy due to symptoms of pregnancy. They can also appear on some occasions due to irritants. Different types of rashes are caused due to various reasons, and it is best to consult a doctor if you notice one developing on your skin.
What Causes Rashes During Pregnancy?
There are no exact causes for rashes during pregnancy. Some types of rashes have not yet been linked to an underlying reason, but certain rashes during pregnancy may be caused due to:
1. Hormonal Changes
Changes in the level of hormones, especially estrogen, are responsible for a lot of changes in the body during pregnancy, which includes the development of a rash.
When your body is triggered due to an allergic reaction or infection, it starts producing a compound called histamine as an immune response to the reaction. This can present itself in the form of rashes or bumps on the skin.
3. Hormones Affecting the Liver
Some conditions like cholestasis are caused by the high level of hormones in the body that affect the normal functioning of the gallbladder, leading to itchiness.
4. Foetal Cells Attack
A theory states that the cells of the foetus attack the mother’s skin which leads to bumps and rashes, paired with itchiness.
As your belly stretches due to the extra weight, the tissues stretch along with it and get damaged in the process. This can cause rashes. This is common among pregnant women carrying more than one baby.
Where Do Rashes Appear During Pregnancy?
Depending on the type, the rashes can appear anywhere on the body during pregnancy, including the abdomen, thighs, hands, breasts, etc.
Can Rashes Affect Your Baby?
Most rashes like PUPPP (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy) do not affect your baby. However, there are other rashes or skin infections which, if not treated on time, may lead to complications and sometimes may even be fatal.
Types of Pregnancy Rashes
Some common rashes during pregnancy can be of various types and have varying degrees of severity as listed below.
Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP) is a common type of rash experienced by many pregnant women. It is known to affect one out of every 150 pregnant women and presents itself around the 34th week. It is characterised by red spots or raised bumps paired with itching. According to some researchers, it is believed that PUPPP is caused as a result of the foetal cells attacking the mother’s skin. The rashes due to this condition usually appear first on the abdomen and spread to the thighs, breasts, arms, and buttocks.
PUPPP does not cause any harm to the mother and the baby and disappears after delivery. It can also be treated using topical ointments.
2. Prurigo of Pregnancy
This condition is also known as eczema of pregnancy and it usually occurs in the second trimester. Women with this condition will notice tiny red, itchy spots on the arms, legs, chest, etc. The spots resemble PUPPP, but they turn into dry patches that appear rough and worn out, like in eczema. This condition may appear similar to atopic dermatitis, but should not be confused with it.
3. Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy
Cholestasis of pregnancy presents itself in the third trimester and affects about one in 1000 pregnancies. This condition is caused due to the rise in pregnancy hormones which affect the flow of bile out of the liver. As the flow of bile slows down, there is a build-up of bile in the liver which may leak into the bloodstream. This causes a persistent itching sensation throughout the body but may be concentrated at the hands and the feet. The other symptoms of this condition include pale coloured stools, dark urine, a mild case of jaundice, and discolouration of the skin (skin and eyes may appear yellow).
Cholestasis may increase the risk of foetal distress and may even cause preterm birth or stillbirth. Hence, it is best if labour is induced when the baby’s lungs are well-developed to prevent any further complications. Your doctor will prescribe medication that can help lower the level of bile in the blood and monitor your baby regularly in order to see if there is a need to induce labour early.
4. Pemphigoid Gestationis
Pemphigoid gestationis is an autoimmune disease that occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy but may begin even in the second trimester. In this condition, the immunoglobin type-G autoantibodies attack the cells of the skin and cause damage as they incorrectly perceive it to be a threat. The condition presents itself as red bumps on the abdomen around the belly button and further spreads to the arms, back, and buttocks. As they progress, these itchy bumps develop blisters that are filled with fluid or simply form raised patches.
It resolves in most women post-delivery; however, some women may continue to have it for a few months after delivery. It is also not known to affect babies, but in the rare event of complications, it may lead to premature birth or transient blistering on babies, which clears out within a few months once the antibodies subside in the mother.
5. Impetigo Herpetiformis
Although rare, this is a fatal condition that appears in the form of blisters around the groin region, near the elbows and the knees and causes rashes during early pregnancy as well. Other symptoms that accompany this condition include nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and chills, and problems with lymph nodes. The blisters are formed in clusters and are filled with puss. They dry up and fall off within a few days. New blisters replace the old ones. This condition needs to be diagnosed at the earliest and the woman needs to be provided intensive treatment as leaving it untreated could lead to stillbirth and even maternal death.
6. Pruritic Folliculitis of Pregnancy
Pruritic folliculitis occurs in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. This condition is characterised by tiny bump-like acne and is usually mistaken as bacterial folliculitis. It does not pose a threat to the baby or the mother and gets resolved after pregnancy.
Treatment for Skin Rashes During Pregnancy
Most pregnancy rashes are treated with the topical application of corticosteroids. Benzoyl peroxide may also be used in the case of conditions like pruritic folliculitis. Antihistamines like chlorphenamine may also be used to relieve itching. Sometimes, very rarely, oral corticosteroids like prednisone may be prescribed. You may also be advised to apply emollients that soften and moisturise the skin to prevent cracking and dryness.
You can also try out some natural remedies to help relieve your rashes. While many of these remedies do not have scientific backing, many women have found them to be helpful.
- Drinking vegetable juice can help detox and cleanse the body.
- Collagen supplements can help repair damaged tissues and strengthen them. Mixing a few spoons of grass-fed collagen in your juice is the best way to consume it. Topical collagen cream application may not be very effective as the collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin.
- Dandelion root and nettle leaf tea can purify the liver and blood and reduce itching and inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs like chamomile, Chinese skullcap, and calendula can help reduce inflammation of the skin on topical application. These herbs can be added to lotions, aloe vera, or witch hazel for easy application.
- Soaking in a bath made of oatmeal can help reduce the feeling of itchiness on the skin and moisturise it. You can also tie some chamomile tea and oatmeal in a cloth, drop it in your bath, and soak in the water for 20 minutes.
- Adaptogens that alleviate stress can also help regulate the immune system. Since adequate research hasn’t been done on the use of adaptogens during pregnancy, it is best that you limit its use.
- You can use chamomile and lavender to help relax and get some sleep if itching has caused you sleepless nights.
- Black cherry juice is also a great way to get rid of PUPPP rashes during pregnancy.
Each kind of rash and skin condition during pregnancy has a different degree of severity. Hence, the best way to ensure you and your baby are safe is to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as the first sign of a rash appears.
Resources and References: Healthline