Get That Pregnancy Rash Checked Out

If you develop a pregnancy rash, consult your physician. Pregnancy rashes can occur at any time during the gestation period, and most of them are not dangerous, but some can be life-threatening to your unborn baby.

As you move through your pregnancy, you may notice that your skin is changing almost before your very eyes. Because your belly must expand to accommodate the growing fetus, the skin on your stomach must also expand to accommodate your girth. In order to do so, your skin must stretch. This can cause stretch marks, which may itch and turn red. But stretch marks are not to be confused with a pregnancy rash.

Pregnancy rashes, red bumps that form on your belly, abdomen and extremities, are often red and very itchy.

Types of Pregnancy Rashes
Pregnancy rashes can be anything from prickly heat or friction rash to dark patches on the skin that do not itch or large red or white blisters.

1. Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy
Called ICP for short, this rash is associated with liver bile and can be dangerous to both the mother and the fetus. This rash is invisible, yet the itching is intense. This rash is caused by liver bile backup forcing deposits beneath the skin. ICP is also associated with some incidences of fetus failure. The generally affected areas are the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, but ICP can spread to the abdomen and the legs. Women can experience this rash at any time during their pregnancy, but most cases of ICP occur in the second and third trimester. Other symptoms are yellowing of the eye whites, loss of appetite, fatigue, pale stools and dark urine. ICP occurs more often in pregnant women who have a relative who has experienced the same type of pregnancy rash, women who are carrying multiples and women who have had previous liver damage. ICP tends to recur in subsequent births.

2. Melasma
Melasma is a dark, splotchy, rash-like condition that occurs on the face. This rash usually correlates with another type of non-itchy rash that many women experience on their abdomen called Linea Nigra. Linea Nigra is the formation of a dark line from the belly button to the pubic area. While these splotches appear to be rashes at first, they are not true pregnancy rashes. They do not itch, and the darkened pigmentation usually disappears shortly after giving birth.

3. Pemphigoid Gestationis Or Herpes Gestationis
This rash has nothing to do with the herpes virus. It occurs in 1 in every 10,000 to 50,000 pregnancies. The rash starts out near the belly button and spreads to the abdomen and extremities. It is recognized by the small, raised hives that quickly morph into blisters. The rash is linked to a greater risk of early delivery and fetal growth problems. Additionally, about 5 percent of all babies born to women who experience this rash also are born with the rash on their bodies. This rash usually appears in the final stages of pregnancy and has even been known to occur after delivery.

4. Prurigo Gestationis
When this rash appears it is initially mistaken for bug bites. However, it soon becomes apparent that the many tiny red spots that spread to the hands, feet, arms and legs are indeed a rash. One out of every 300 pregnant women is affected. While it can occur at any time during the pregnancy, Prurigo Gestationis usually occurs during the second half of the pregnancy. There is no cure for it, but a physician can prescribe topical ointments to control it. The rash disappears shortly after delivery.

5. Pruritic Folliculitis
Pruritic Folliculitis is relatively new in the medical books, as it was first diagnosed in 1981. For all intents and purposes, this rash looks like acne. It may appear on the shoulders, upper back, arms and chest, as well as on the abdomen. The bumps are small and red and generally filled with pus. While the reason for this rash is still unknown and despite the fact that women who experience this type of rash do not seem to have extremely high or extremely low hormones, hormones are thought to play a significant part in its appearance. While the verdict is still out, there is some suggestion that the appearance of this rash may be linked to lower birth weights.

Pruritic Urticarial Papules (PUPPP) is one of the most common forms of pregnancy rashes. PUPPP appears in the last stages of pregnancy and is recognized by small red welts that form larger welts as the rash progresses from the area near the belly button, across the stomach and down the thighs. It may also spread to the extremities. While there is no cure for this rash, it is also benign. It is irritating but will disappear about a week after the baby is delivered. One percent of all women experience PUPPP during their pregnancy. One common denominator of PUPPP patients is that about 70 percent deliver boys.

Since there are so many types of pregnancy rashes, the smart move is to bring the condition up with your doctor as soon as you start to itch.

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