Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Hives (Postpartum Hives)

PLEASE VISIT MY OTHER BLOG: postpartumhives.blogspot.com

Since May 17, a little over two weeks since my adorable baby boy was born, I've been suffering (and I mean really suffering) from hives. They are full body break outs. I hate them. They are painful, itchy, and everywhere. I've been taking 24 hour Clariton and Benadryl (not at the same time) but neither are completely effective, but while taking them they are at least some what livable with.
Last week we arranged for me to go see an Allergist. I've already seen our local doctor twice on the matter and he can do anything for me, he suggested I go see an Allergist. Hard part is there are no Allergy Doctors in Sierra Vista and I had to make a trip to Tucson to see the doctor. Also I had to go off the Clariton in order to be tested, and off the Benadryl for the last 24 hours before seeing the doctor. With nothing in my system there is nothing to control my hives and I was having full body break outs. The pictures attached to this blog were taken the morning of the appointment with the Allergist, and this isn't even my worst break out. The worst part of the whole experience is the Allergist didn't do testing because I had some hives at that time (eventhough none were on my back where they were going to do the testing). I understand why he didn't test me, if I am so sensitive there's a chance of a lot of false positives. He didn't want to do a blood allergy test (he just doesn't do them). He doesn't know what is wrong with me. He seemed sceptical that it might have something to do with me having a baby recently. Now I feel I must take a moment to explain my background. My BS is in Molecular Biology, my emphasis would be in immunology. After graduating college I worked in a blood allergy lab in Tempe. We determined what people (mostly dogs, cats, and horses) are allergic to by testing to see what they have antibodies to. I did that for 2 years. Immunolgy is a BIG part of my education and my education has taught me that there is something going on in my immune system and it is highly likely to have something to do with the fact that I had a tramatic body experience ie having a baby- I know doctors have a lot of educations but they don't know and remember everything. The Allergist also wanted to put me on a bunch of medications that would cause me to have to stop nursing my baby. I tried to make it clear to my doctor that stopping nursing was not what I wanted to do and it really upset me because his response summed up said that nursing was a luxary. I do NOT beleive that nursing is a luxary but a prioity, and I didn't like that he dismissed my theory on my hives. I had a friend in Florida (from where I served my mission) tell me she had the same experierence after each of her children, hives and the doctors couldn't tell her why. They did all sorts of tests and after the last child finally decided that she is allergic to herself and the condition is flaired up by having a baby. They would try to control it with medication and eventually the hives would go away on their own about 6 months after they started. It got me thinking, I did some internet searches on 'postpartum hives'. I found story after story of woment who are have been or are in the same situation my friend and I are- hives started after giving birth and the doctors have no idea why. Now we have to decide what we are going to do. Are we going to stop nursing and try the meds or not do the meds and live with the hives. Its a tough choice. But one thing I do know, that when I go back to school to receive my Masters I want to do reseach on what in our immune systems caused postpartum hives.

UPDATE ****25October2009******
Baby Al is now 6 months old. My hives haven't gone away yet. I am still living with them. The difference is we have found medications that work for me. Benadryl and Clariton gave me some relief but it didn't last. The doctor prescribed Zyrtec for me and I was upset because the box says 'do not take if breastfeeding'. The allergist said that it isn't any worse as a chemical compound than Benadryl would be, it just isn't as tested because its newer. I brought up the concern with my family doctor, and our Pediatrician- all three gave me the same answer (my OB would not participate in a discussion because I was no longer pregnant and referred me back to my family doctor). The allergist also prescribed a heavy allergy med called Hydroxyzine HCL to take at night on days when it has been really bad. This too I was told was no worse than Benadryl, just might make him sleepier as it makes me sleepier. These by themselves have not been enough. In addition I also have a nasal spray. Allergy testing showed that I have allergic to a lot of environmental things. Even if my hives are been caused my hormonal changes, they can be worsened by environmental factors or food allergens. We have used this information to try to limit the effects of my environment. I am now at a point where I can live with my hives. I am miserable if I forget to take my meds for even one day, but at least I can function now. I still hope to feel "normal" one day and be off of my meds, but "normal" changes after having a baby. For all of you out there that are suffering from postpartum hives, I feel your pain. Talk to your doctors. Don't give up until you find something that works for you. I spoke with one lady that was convinced it was the breast milk hormone. She then proceeded to pump constantly until she had a stash of a year supply of breast milk for her baby, then stopped nursing, and her hives went away. Maybe someday we'll learn what is the real culprit here. Maybe when I go back to school for my Masters and Doctorate I will do my thesis research in postpartum hives, but until then don't give up, there are things out there that can help. Good luck and God bless.

****update 10Jan2010*******
I have started a blog to create a place where all of us suffering from this problem can share our experiences. Please check it out. I will be updating on my status there from now on. postpartumhives.blogspot.com
please let any of your friends and family who have suffered from postpartum hives know about this blog. And please share with me your experiences and stories.


Jen said...

Yikes!!! Those look horrible! I'm so sorry you've had to endure those hives! I hope everything works out and you're still able to nurse. I hate that doctor's look at it like it's old fashioned to do it or something. Luckily our Pediatrician is a HUGE advocate and practically begged me to keep going when I was having problems. And I'm glad he did! Anyway, you'll be in my prayers!

bethany said...

I had really bad hives after my first daughter. Oat mill baths and eurcerin lotion helped. I had been using palmers lotion for stretch marks and found out I was allergic to coco butter. I hope you get better soon it was awful I feel for you.

G-mom said...

wow!! I have similar pictures. I broke out terribly after my second son. I didn't quit nursing and they gave me this ointment called Tricimilone cream... perscription, but it made the swelling go down, the itch go away and ultimately after about a week all the hives went away. I was just greasy for awhile. but it was worth it!! good luck!

Matt and Stephanie said...

I had the hives after I had Alyson, but only for a week. I just took benadryl and used some aveeno cream. I didnt know what it came from, but now I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has had this problem.

Unknown said...

Are you taking prenatal vitamins? Like you, I have seen the articles and blogs of women with the same condition, and have talked to doctors with no answers, etc. Going in circles and stressed. But, the doctors say keep taking your prenatal vitamins, especially if you are nursing. So I'm guessing most of these other mothers are as well.
I have a 3 month old, and have had hives and facial swelling the past 2-1/2 months. I intially thought I developed a food allergy, so I eliminated eggs, peanuts and strawberries, etc. from my diet, but, I still had the hives. The doctors said that stress was probably causing the hives. With that in mind, I tried to relax. It did seem that stress aggravated the hives, but, even when I felt stress-free, I was still getting the hives almost every morning. The hives were usually in the morning, and often went away on their own within 6-12 hours. Then it suddenly dawned on me that maybe my vitamins were causing/contributing to the hives. I generally take my prenatal vitamins in the morning with breakfast, so I did not make the connection until this past week when a couple of times the only thing I had was the prenatal vitamin (PruEt DHA) and water. Within 1/2 an hour the hives started popping up all over my legs. I have since stopped taking them, and have been hive-free for three days now.
This may not be the cause of the hives for everyone with postpartum hives, but, I strongly suspect it is in my case, and I hope this helps you and other mothers who are experiencing the same thing.
Best wishes.

Melissa said...

Hi, I am 8 weeks postpartum and have had occasional hives flare ups. They occur when I wear constricting clothes and exercise. Also, I have been getting allergy shots for 3 years now. Since I've been taking them so long I no longer get a reaction to the shots and had no reactions to them during pregnancy. I also had no reaction with my first shot postpartum, but I just got my second shot postpartum and broke out in hives. That doctor you saw doesn't know what he's talking about. Not all doctors know everything. I am positive the hives I have been getting are due to postpartum hormone changes, which are being prolonged due to breastfeeding. If I were you, I would find another doctor and get a second opinion even if it means trying to talk to one via email just to get some advice. Good luck!

natalieblu said...

hi! now that some time has passed - how are your hives? how long did they last - any remedies to share? did you find any other information?

I like you believe it is hormone related. I wish i knew what to do. it has been 4 weeks and i don't see an end in sight

By the way your son is VERY cute!

Arizona Girl said...

dear natalieblu (and all other hive covered mothers out there),
I haven't found any more information. I worked with an allergist, we determined that, at least part of it is environmental factors and not food. We didn't test for hormones. I couldn't find a doctor near me that would do that sort of testing. The allergist put me on Zyrtec and a nasal spray that blocks environmental things. One alone isn't quite enough to keep the hives away. If I miss one or the other I still brake out in hives (baby Al is now 6 months old). I know that the box of Zyrtec says not to take if you are breastfeeding. All three of my doctors said it should be fine, we had a period where we observed my baby to see if he reacted to the meds, there was no change. The hives are at least livable with. But I still hope for a day that I don't have to take meds everyday. Talk to your doctors, ASAP. There are options and various meds you could try to find one that works for you. Also trying to narrow down what is causing it (at least ruling out other thing) can make a difference. We found out I am allergic to our cat. Now we take precautions to limit her effect. Things like that can help make flair ups livable. Good luck, I hope you can at least get to a livable stage.

natalieblu said...

Thanks for your update. I have found an article that i believe relates to us:

Obstetrics & Gynecology:
August 2009 - Volume 114 - Issue 2, Part 2 - pp 415-416
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181a20721
Case Reports
Recurrent Postpartum Anaphylaxis With Breast-Feeding

I haven't been able to obtain the full journal, just the abstract. If you can get it through school mates, please let me know.

natalieblu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arizona Girl said...

natalieblu--- Thanks for posting the info here. My educational background is in immunology, I love reading medical journals. I just don't anymore since I no only have access to a college library. I had given up hope looking for now. I was looking under the wrong words. I looked up the article (thank-you to brothers still in college). It has given me some leads to other places to look. I'm really interested in other people's stories. I want to create a set of questions to find out about our stories more. I'm feeling like its my call in life to go back to school and work on this for my masters. Please send me your email address and I will send anyone a copy of this article. I don't feel I can with copyrights just post it here. My email address is judeebeeforme@yahoo.com

carlapants said...

I'm in this boat! The reason that it makes me think it's post partum hormones that are causing this is that the hives appeared right as my hair started falling out. I don't use any lotions, all my soaps and detergents are the same hypoallergenic products I've been using for years. I've been tested for food and environmental allergies, and I had only a very mild reaction to yeast. Eliminating yeast from my diet showed no improvement.

I really hope you do research this... Allegra, Zyrteck, Bennadryl, that hydro-something super antihistamine... nothing. I'm getting acupuncture and taking some Chinese medicine herbs, but not seeing any improvement yet.

I can deal with the itch. But I feel so horrible about my appearance as is- my leper-like skin for the past month isn't helping that one bit.

The thought of no longer nursing is heartbreaking to me.

Arizona Girl said...

Please come visit my other blog and share you experiences there: postpartumhives.blogspot.com

Florence Parker said...

Yikes, you poor girl! I've gotten hives from very specific foods and I've had some of my children break out in hives, but haven't been able to pinpoint how they got theirs. How miserable for you. I have always been sensitive to lotions, sunblock, and metal. I was able to use them, but it would sometimes cause me to itch or burn. If I used 14K gold earrings I was fine. Immediately after having my first baby, I was no longer able to wear earrings---any kind-- due to the burning and itching it caused. Then I became progressively sensitive and by the time I had my 3rd baby I couldn't use lotions/sunblock on my face or makeup. If I hold coins for more than a few seconds, my hands start to itch, as well. I also developed eczema. I think it is definitely made more severe by the hormonal shift, but luckily my sensitivities haven't continued to get progressively worse, even after 5 children. I had all my babies at home, drug-free, so I know meds didn't play a role in this. However, I have had sisters and friends who have reacted very badly to the meds they were given during/after labor. Hives, swelling, headaches, etc. Another thing to consider as a possibility if you had any meds during/after labor (probably not the cause in your situation because still on-going, but could have compounded/triggered the situation). Also, another consideration is vaccinations. I was vaccinated as a child, but I decided not to vaccinate my children, for many reasons, but one was that some studies show an increase in allergies/sensitivities with those vaccinated. Something to consider if you were vaccinated as a child or as an adult/during pregnancy. Also, I am very sensitive to MSG and so I stay away from all fake food like margarine, fake sugar or anything with a lot of preservatives. I think that has helped. Anyway, just brainstorming over here. So sorry for your suffering and way to go mama for continuing to breastfeed!

The Jernigan's said...

Did u have water blisters as well. I broke out in hives after having my twin girls in December 2008 they were born at 35 wks 6 days.