If you’re looking at the title of this blog going, “What???” you might as well stop reading, because this will not be of interest to you! I keep thinking, however, that I need to share my experience with PUPPP, which stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. It is also called polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP.) If you know what I’m talking about, I’m sorry, because it probably means you’ve experienced it! I’d like to share my experience as well as my tips because when I had it, I spent many hours looking for blog posts just like this.
My PUPPP showed up at 12 weeks, which is really unusual. Normally it creeps up late in the third trimester or even post-partum. I woke up, excited to be into my second trimester and looking forward to announcing our pregnancy! I had been having itchy, rashy ankles, but chalked it up to summer bug bites. After my morning shower, I noticed by stomach was RED and itchy. I was studying for a big exam at the time, so I headed to a coffee shop to study. While there, the rash spread to my arms and down my legs. I called my doctor and was able to get an appointment. I had already read up on the internet and diagnosed myself with PUPPP, although it is really rare so early in pregnancy. My doctor had a second physician come in and after looking at all the dermatoses that can creep up in pregnancy, they agreed with me. I left with a prescription for steroid cream (the tiniest tube ever by the way!) At it’s worst, only my face, palms, and soles of my feet were spared, which is classic PUPPP.
Over the next few days, the rash and itching became ridiculous. I couldn’t sleep, study, or really do anything except try to keep the itching at bay. I was getting maybe 2 hours of sleep per night and I felt myself going a little crazy. After 1 1/2 weeks (doesn’t seem that long to you, but felt like an eternity!) my symptoms started to die down. I continued to battle with the rash and itching until 16 weeks, when it finally went away. I worried that it would come back, but I’m currently 2 months post-partum and have had no recurrence. If you’re thinking it couldn’t be that bad, I’ve heard people say it puts chicken pox to shame!
What causes PUPPP? We really don’t know! Some believe it’s due to over-stretched skin (not in my case as I wasn’t even showing!) They have found fetal cells in the skin lesions, so another idea is that it is essentially an “allergic” reaction to your baby!
So onto the important part, what did I do?
1. Take solace in the fact that this is of no harm to your baby! There are, however, some rashes and itching in pregnancy that can be a risk to your baby, so make sure you see your doctor. She will do some simple blood tests to rule that out.
2. Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soup: Get this at the first sign of itching! I found it at my local grocery store, but amazon also has it. It smells awful, like you didn’t bathe and were sitting around a campfire for a week, but I do feel that it helped me. I would take several showers a day (more on that below) and use it in every one.
3. Showers and baths galore: I took at least 2 showers and 2 baths per day for relief. I was at home studying during this time. I don’t know how someone would be able to work while having PUPPP. Use cool water and pine tar soap! I also took many baking soda baths (just dump a cup of baking soda in the water) and also liked Aveeno’s oatmeal bath. You could find me in the bathtub at 2 am as I couldn’t sleep. Luckily Kyle was on summer break, as he didn’t get much sleep with me sulking around, running water constantly, and complaining.
4. Anti-itch lotion: I did not find the tiny tube of topical steroid cream to be helpful. I bought pretty much every anti-itch lotion from the store and I would recommend you do that same as each person is different. Calamine lotion was not helpful to me at all. Sarna and Sarna sensitive lotions are good, but smell. Actually, pretty much everything is smelly and since you are using the pine tar soap, you should just give up on trying to smell good at all. These lotions contain menthol, so they have a cooling sensation that takes away (briefly) the itch. I kept these by my bed and when I woke up itching every 10 minutes (no joke) I’d slap some on. I also like Aveeno’s Skin Relief lotion. It was not smelly and was soothing, but didn’t have as much itch-relief goodness.
5. Dietary craziness: This probably didn’t help, but I read that tomato juice and lemon juice was helpful for some people. I drank 2 glasses of V8 each day. What you don’t know is that I HATE tomato juice. I would pour a cup, add lots of ice so it was really cold, and
drink pound it with a straw so I didn’t have to taste it as much. I also would drink the juice of one lemon a day. I’d add a little sugar and carbonated water, so that was like a delicious lemonade! Like I said, I don’t know if this helped, but it couldn’t hurt!
6. Fetal Doppler: I don’t recommend this for everyone as there are pros and cons to getting an at-home fetal doppler so you can hear the baby’s heartbeat. When you find the heartbeat, it is awesome! If you can’t, it will create anxiety and fear! I decided since I had experience finding the heartbeat (it can be difficult early on) I would get one. Listening to baby’s heartbeat reminded me of the amazing things my body was doing since I couldn’t feel baby moving yet.
What didn’t help me:
Antihistamines: I tried Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claratin with no relief, but you might as well try!
Steroids: Topical steroids were useless to me. I would have needed a gallon tub to slather on my entire body. Oral steroids are an option, but since I was still early in my pregnancy, I chose to try to avoid them. I can’t say how much longer I could have endured PUPPP before taking them.
The good news is that, as I kept telling myself, it is totally worth it!
P.S. I think everyone is thinking of those affected by the tragedy in Boston and I am no exception. My friend Becky shared this lovely article. I find tragedy brings out the best in people.
People Being Awesome
And although I am thankful to look at the images and tweets shared, I hope that if I find myself in a similar situation, my first instinct is to reach out and help, not reach for my phone.