Aka PUPP or PUPPS or PUPPS during pregnancy and post-partum
aka My Encounter With The Devil’s Incarnate
Doesn’t PUPPPs sound so innocent and cute? Like a cute little furry, snuggly puppy? How lucky, you get a puppy AND a baby, you biatch!
Make no mistake: PUPPs rash is the worst. THE WORST!
Lemme be a little dramatic for a sec.
38 ish weeks pregnant. Feeling very pregnant, as one does at 38 weeks pregnant. And my belly starts to itch one night. I chalk it up to super stretched out skin, put some lotion on it, and go to bed. Up until this point, I’d had few to no stretch marks. Figured I was obviously one of the lucky ones who would have no signs of pregnancy weeks after giving birth. Instagram model level 10.
Next day, stretch marks are far more red and apparent, belly is super itchy. At my appointment, my NP tells me it’s just stretch marks. Fair enough. Silly me for thinking I could get out of this pregnancy without any stretch marks. Whatevs. I’m sure I’ll come into some serious inheritance or win the lottery soon or something and be able to plastic surgery those suckers into oblivion, right?
NOT FAIR ENOUGH.
As the days progress, the itching gets worse and worse. What began as red stretch marks became a full blown rash. As my mother very gently put it, my stomach looked like raw ground hamburger.
The rash went from my nipples to my toes. Literally, it was on my nipples. and. toes. It was itchy, so I scratched it, because screw self control. When I scratched, it itched more, it hurt and it bled. Wearing clothes was painful. Moving was painful. Breathing was painful. Sleeping…well sleeping just wasn’t happening. PUPPPs apparently flares at night, which is a true sign of the Devil’s work. As if super pregs ladies need another reason to not sleep.
I came home from work each evening those last few days of pregnancy and ran (or waddled. Whatever.) immediately to the freezer while removing my shirt mid stride. My poor belly would be so inflamed after a long day of work and a tight seat belt. I would put a big ice pack on my bare belly, lean against the counter, and literally cry from itchy, painful frustration.
I looked up synonyms for “itch” and found tingling, irritation, prickle, uncomfortable sensation that causes the desire to scratch.
My fellow PUPPPs alum, I hear you. There quite frankly aren’t words to describe the “itch” that comes with this rash. I took scalding hot showers and put ice directly on my skin because the pain was more tolerable than the itching. I wanted to filet off the top layer of my skin with a small knife. I woke up in fits of rage because sheets were touching my rash. The NERVE of those sheets!
A little bit about PUPPS
PUPPP stands for Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy, or the 7th circle of hell. It has a few characteristics – it starts in the stretch marks, doesn’t go above the bust line, and for some reason, doesn’t cover the belly button. It’s more frequently associated with first pregnancies and male fetuses, an it occurs in approximately 1% of all pregnancies. Not a lot is known about what causes it, there aren’t any treatments, and the only true relief is supposed to come from delivery. The attitude of most articles, doctors, nurses, and internet-ers is that it’s “harmless” and “itchy” and “a nuisance” and “take an oatmeal bath for relief!” and “don’t worry, it’s temporary” which tells me that these people never experienced the rash themselves.
Looking for Relief
I went into the deep, deep interwebs searching for relief. Things got weird. At 2am on the 12th page of Google search results, reading some blog translated from Korean, I convinced myself that I had certainly found my cure. Spoiler alert: I didn’t ever find the holy grail, but I was entertained and I did take comfort in that I wasn’t the only one suffering.
Here’s what I tried:
*I will say that trying new remedies gave me a new sense of hope and optimism each time. This one will certainly be the one that fixes me! That in itself was pretty valuable, even if none worked.
- A steroid pack prescribed to me by my doc. Didn’t work.
- V8 juice (some lady on some blog said it cured her). Didn’t work, but kind of tasty.
- Dandelion tea (again, some lady on some blog swore by it). Didn’t work, tasted like bitter chalk.
- Grandpa’s Pinetar Soap Message board posts galore touted this as the holy grail. Didn’t work. Did make my bathroom smell like a campfire, which I didn’t hate.
- All the lotions I own, including Benadryl cream, hydrocortizone cream, aloe gel, cooling aloe gel, calamine lotion, Sanra cream, some sketchy cream I bought in Mexico after I got attacked by sand fleas. None. Worked. Plus, do you know how much cream it takes to cover damn near an entire swollen, pregnant body? A whole shit ton.
- Benadryl and Zyrtec (after delivery). Zyrtec kind of worked! FINALLY!
- Cussing, crying, scratching, yelling, bitching, moaning. Fairly effective, and totally acceptable. This was my favorite mode of coping. No shame and no regrets.
- Giving birth. Apparently, not so long ago, women were induced because of PUPPS, but because it doesn’t create any actual medical issues for mom or baby, induction is no longer an option. During labor, I wore two monitors strapped across my abdomen. That alone was miserable enough to make me want an epidural. Giving birth is supposed to be the only surefire cure for this wretched rash.
GUESS WHAT. EVEN GIVE BIRTH DIDN’T WORK.
￼No kidding. A few days after delivery, the rash had subsided, and I did a mini victory dance. Except not really, because that would’ve made me piss my pants. I could once again wear shirts and seat belts without sobbing in agony!
Then, the rash came back. A week later, it came back, and this time, it came back PISSED. What in the actual F? It’s not supposed to do that. Not even a little bit. I went through the stages of grief. I bargained with Karma. I repented for my sins. What did I do to deserve this nonsense? I was trying to recover from birth and keep a newborn alive. It was starting to get hot outside. I couldn’t deal with this rash on top of all of that.
An ultrasound later revealed that I had a little piece of retained placenta stuck to my uterine wall that was spitting out enough hormone to make my body think that I was still pregnant. The day after having the placental tissue removed, the rash was barely noticeable. I can’t even tell you the relief!
14 weeks was my total time with PUPPP aka the devil rash. I’m glad to say that at 12 weeks post-partum, the rash is finally gone. However, it likes to rear it’s ugly little head when I have a drink…which makes me want to have another drink…