It started as just a few tiny red bumps around my belly button. They itched, but I scratched and didn’t think twice about it. Since I was 40-weeks pregnant, I asked my doctor casually if I should worry about the bumps. Honestly, it didn’t look like much at the time, so we all brushed it off thinking “heat rash” or just another unusual pregnancy symptom that would go away in a few days. As the days went by, the itch grew stronger. How could these tiny red bumps burn and itch this bad? It seemed impossible. I had gone though nine months of pregnancy aches and pains, and I couldn’t figure out why this felt worse than it all. Little did I know…this was just the beginning.
Have you heard of PUPPPs? It may sound cute, but don’t let the name fool you! Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy is a somewhat rare hive-like rash that begins on the abdomen and spreads to the arms, legs, back, butt, boobs…everywhere. It doesn’t go away overnight. It can take months. This rash typically develops in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy or immediately in the postpartum period. Many doctors believe that the rapid stretching of skin towards the end causes an inflammatory reaction due to damaged connective tissue, resulting in hideously itchy hive-like lesions; however a true cause or cure has never been found. For many, it goes away once you give birth, but for the lucky few (oh hey guys, that’s me)…it lasts for weeks and weeks after.
By the time I went to the hospital on October 1, I was over 41-weeks pregnant, and the red bumps had multiplied quite a bit, both above and below my belly button. Boy, it itched! I knew that I would be giving birth within the next 24-hours, so I still wasn’t too worried about it. We all assumed it was just a typical pregnancy symptom due to hormones or maybe a new lotion that I had used. As the hours and days went by, the rash began to spread. I am sensitive to medications, surgical tape, etc., so since the hives started to appear in areas where bandages were used, where the catheter was taped to my leg, where the IV was placed in my wrist, my OBGYN on-call thought it was due to an allergic reaction and told me to try Benadryl.
Then…all hell broke loose! While I was trying to enjoy our new bundle of joy at home and recover “down there” from pushing out such a large baby, my ENTIRE body from the neck down was soon covered in a blanket of the itchiest and most painful hives I had ever experienced. The rash continued to erupt and creams…lotions…allergy medicine did absolutely nothing to combat the itchy lava that was spreading from limb to limb.
It was the weekend, so on Monday, I had to make a trip to my dermatologist. I was coated in pregnancy hives. He instantly knew…I had PUPPPs. He actually called it PEP (polymorphic eruption of pregnancy). My first thought was, “After pregnancy?” Yep. I asked when it would go away, and he kindly replied, “This terrible of a case…I would say 6-8 weeks…or longer. We really don’t know.” Oh. My. Gosh. 6-8 weeks more weeks of this? No cure?
Blaine will be 5 weeks old tomorrow, and while I am beyond thankful that 95% of the hives are gone, my body still itches, and I can’t help but scratch! I am covered in bruises from where the main areas of the rash were, and I am still using a special lotion/body wash. Hopefully it will be gone soon! We all have our ups and downs. I am definitely not complaining. I loved being pregnant, and I love being a mommy. I just wanted to share my story in case you are going through the same thing. It is awful and debilitating, all day and all night, but you can do it—it won’t last forever!
If you have any questions about this rash, I’d be happy to chat—below or on my Instagram (@SydneyBMcArthur). I am not 100% back to normal yet, but I am feeling much better and can at least function!
A few things that gave me a little bit of relief:
Aveeno® Oatmeal Bath (2x Per Day)
A Few Prescriptions From My Dermatologist