I Suffered a Painful Skin Condition in Pregnancy & You Should Know About It

By the time I was full-term, I resembled less a pregnant woman and more human beach ball. I was extremely uncomfortable, and surprisingly very itchy.

Six years ago, I was pregnant with my first baby, doing all the things you enjoy in your first pregnancy, and reminisce about in future pregnancies. I watched Netflix for hours at a time, was pampered by my doting husband, napped every afternoon, and went on long walks in the evening.

By the time I was full-term I had gained sixty pounds, and my tiny 4’11 frame resembled less pregnant woman and more human beach ball. I was starting to get extremely uncomfortable, and surprisingly very itchy.

Two weeks before my daughter arrived she was measuring at eight pounds; my stomach was so stretched that it felt like my skin could rip at any moment. My body was covered in stretch marks, and within the deep red gashes I had started to form little red itchy bumps. The itching and the marks spread from my stretch marks across my belly, and eventually to my hands and feet. I couldn’t think of much else but the itching and called my midwife to make sure there wasn’t something wrong.

After a quick visit at the midwife’s office I was diagnosed with Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (or, PUPPP). This skin condition, which looks and feels like hives, is chronic and typically goes away once the baby is born. It doesn’t threaten the health of the mother or her unborn child, but it can cause incredible discomfort to the mother.

In my final weeks of pregnancy, I couldn’t think of much else beyond finding solace from the pain and itching. I tried everything I could to soothe the pain, but all I really wanted was for my baby to hurry up (she was 9 days late, of course!)

I’ve yet to hear of another woman who has had the same pregnancy skin rash as I did, but approximately 1 in 150 pregnant women will experience some degree of PUPPPs, which typically shows up in the final five weeks of pregnancy.

A 2006 study revealed that women who experience PUPPPs are more likely to experience multiple pregnancies, hypertensive disorder, and induction of labour.

I went on to have a healthy baby girl, and my PUPPPs disappeared as soon as she was laid on my chest. Luckily, I did not get a recurrence in my two other pregnancies.

My Tips for Dealing with Pregnancy Skin Rash:

1. Soak in an oatmeal bath for relief from itching, but make sure not to make the water too warm.

2. Buy Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap, an old-fashioned remedy for PUPPPs that seriously works! I would shower under cool water and slather the soap on me, let it sit for a few minutes and rinse it off.

3. Talk to your doctor about using a topical steroid cream with 1% hydrocortisone and apply to particularly painful patches.

4. If clothes cause you more itching, try to find loose fitting cotton and rest at home without clothes on for relief.

5. If your rash feels hot, apply a cool compress, or ice packs, for soothing relief.

6. Try to find distractions; get out of the house, go shopping, get yourself busy and try to keep your mind off of the discomfort.

7. Many women have found relief using Gold Bond Anti-itch Cream but consult your doctor before using.



Brianna Bell is a writer and journalist based out of Guelph, Ontario. She has written for many online and print publications, including Scary Mommy, The Penny Hoarder, and The Globe & Mail. 

Brianna's budget-savvy ways has attracted media attention, and led to newspaper coverage in The Globe & Mail and The Guelph Mercury. In April 2016 Brianna will be featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less, alongside co-writer Brooke Burke. You can find Brianna's website at Brianna Bell Writes.