One week after I delivered bubba I started to get a horrible chronic hive like rash. It started where my stretch marks were on my stomach, spread to the rest of my torso, around my back and eventually to my arms and legs. It was red, inflamed, welt-like and horrendously horrendously itchy.
At first I thought it was this red date drink my mum was insisting I drink (all the Asian mummies out there know what I’m on about. It’s supposedly really good for enriching and replenishing the blood) so I stopped drinking it but the rash continued to spread. After a week, the rash was so horrific that I couldn’t sleep, scrubbed myself raw with pinetarsol and started googling.
I know what you’re thinking. We’ve all done the ‘googling symptoms’ to self diagnose, but after reading several forums and medical info links online I was convinced I had a rare condition called PUPPPS also known as Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. The symptoms matched, the photos looked like my skin and there was no other explanation. Known as PUPPPS for short, it is a chronic condition of hives that covers the entire body except for the face and soles of the hands and feet, usually occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy (not in my case), usually affects mummas that are having baby boys (well, I had a girl) and is thought to occur due to stretching of the skin – which is why it generally starts spreading from where the stretch marks are. It’s an extremely rare condition and occurs in about 1% of pregnancies and due to its non-life threatening nature there has been little research done on the whys and hows.
After many tears and in need of some answers and confirmation, I desperately called my GP to try and get an appointment but there was nothing available for a few days. I then called my OB to see if I could get an immediate appointment, but when I explained on the phone what I thought I had, they were dismissive and advised that the rash had nothing to do with the pregnancy but was rather an allergic reaction to something I had consumed. They advised me to see a GP as they were unable to help me. Feeling utterly defeated, there was nothing to do but wait until my GP was available to see me. My GP understood the severity of my condition as soon as he laid eyes on it, took photos, prescribed me a hydrocortisone cream to use sparingly in the meantime and gave me an urgent referral to see a dermatologist to clarify what the condition was.
The earliest appointment I could get with the dermatologist was in a week’s time. Seeing little improvement with the steroid cream, drowning in pinetarsol, waiting another week for answers was absolute torture. The mental and emotional rollercoaster ride of having a newborn, being a new mummy, learning how to breastfeed, lack of sleep and a crazy undiagnosed rash almost spiralled me into post natal depression.
By the time I saw the dermatologist the rash had become slightly less inflamed but she did confirm that it was indeed PUPPPS. I was so relieved that I finally had answers and relieved that I was right! The Dr. advised it was extremely extremely rare for it to occur after post pregnancy but that it does happen. She prescribed a hydrocortisone cream that was safe to use while breastfeeding, some antihistamines I could take at night if the itchiness was too great and Aveeno anti-itch concentrated lotion to stay moisturised. She advised that in a matter of weeks the PUPPPS should clear or to come back and see her.
My PUPPPS experience lasted 5-6 weeks. I’d have to say they were the longest weeks of my life. I would’ve rather gone through labour again than to have PUPPPS. It was a horrible torturous experience, something I don’t even wish on my worst enemy but, hey, at least I got a cute baby out of it right?