PUPPP Rash: ‘No one Prepared me for the Mental Harm it Would Cause’

After watching my sister breeze through her pregnancy with twins, I thought to myself, “Yeah. I can do this.”

But my pregnancy with my firstborn was nothing like I thought it would be. I suffered from morning sickness for the first six months and constantly had a travel sickness bag on me for those “oh no, not again” moments.

Heartburn was a new experience for me and the pink bottled Gaviscon quickly became my new best friend.

And I don’t even want to talk about sciatica pain and insomnia.

While I never really felt as though I found my glow in pregnancy, my experience with something called PUPPP rash made all the other symptoms seem like nothing.

PUPPP rash or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy is the pregnancy equivalent of rolling around in a patch of highly allergenic grass and developing an itchy, uncomfortable, and really annoying rash. Experts aren’t sure what causes it but let me be the first to tell you – it’s NOT fun!

‘What looked like hives’ 

I was around 38 weeks when I started to notice the stretch marks around my stomach turning a dark purple. Before I knew it the lower part of my stomach was covered in what looked like hives and was raised, itchy, and it did not go away.

pupp rash Taylor
Source: Supplied

That’s when I spoke to my GP and midwife and they introduced me to the term PUPPP.

I was told that the ultimate “cure” for a PUPPP rash is delivering your baby but some women may find that the rash persists for a few weeks after giving birth.

Even though I was told that PUPPP was harmless to both me and my baby, no one prepared me for the mental harm it would cause.” 

I was 40 weeks + five days and two days off getting induced before my little, well, not-so-little, 4.2kg baby boy decided to make his entrance into the world.

mum central
Source: Supplied

I had been battling sleepless nights and unbearable itching for over two weeks and was ready for it all to be over once my son arrived.

But it wasn’t. I was one of those not-so-lucky few whose Puppp rash continued for four weeks postpartum.

Everything became an itch trigger

As if becoming a new first-time mother wasn’t challenging enough, I now needed to somehow get through my day despite having an intolerable itch, which had now spread to my breasts, back and thighs.

Anything and everything became “an itch trigger” – holding and feeding my son, doing skin to skin, the water trinkling over my body in the shower, my hair on my back, the night sweats, my clothing, rolling from one side to the other in my sleep. The list goes on.

I was once asked what the itch felt like and I described it as a thousand ants crawling all over your body and not knowing where to scratch first. 

I was desperate. Broken. And felt like I failed my son. Looking back, those were the darkest days of my pregnancy and postpartum journey. Yet I hardly see anyone talk about this condition.

I tried everything I could to get rid of this itch- things recommended to me by my GP and good ol’ Google.

Taking oatmeal baths, cold compress, light cotton clothing, antihistamines, itch-relieving baths, etc. I even went to a dermatology specialist who put me on the strongest steroid cream he could and was undertaking light-therapy session every second day.

mum central
Taylor was one of the unlucky mums who experienced PUPPP rash during pregnancy and postpartum. Source: Supplied

By this point, my rash was still present and the outlining of the tattoos down my arm were all raised. Bizarre. The specialist was even dumbfounded.

Cotton gloves 

Despite my efforts, nothing worked. In fact, I don’t think one remedy made a difference. I really wish I had better news for mums who are going through this too.

I suppose if I had to offer one tip that did help, it would be cotton gloves. I wore them to bed every night to try and prevent myself from breaking my skin when I caved into the itch. Yes. I would make myself bleed from itching.”

The itch does end

Around four weeks postpartum the itch was gone and it was such a relief. I no longer looked down to see bumps, scratch marks and redness but instead the raw and beautiful scars of motherhood. I no longer felt like a prisoner in my own body and I could see better days ahead.

My advice for fellow mums going through this is don’t underestimate how strong you are. You will get through this and one day you will wake up and it will be gone.

Until that day comes. Ask for help. Be kind to yourself and INVEST in cotton gloves!

8 things to know about PUPPP rash 

  1. PUPPP is an extremely irritating hive-like rash that can affect you during pregnancy and, in some cases, post-pregnancy.
  2. PUPPP rashes are the most common skin condition associated with pregnancy. They appear in about every 1 in 160 pregnancies.
  3. It generally lasts for four to six weeks and usually shows up around the 35-week mark.
  4. The rash generally appears as scattered, itchy bumps on or near the stretch marks on your belly, sometimes forming raised patches of skin, or a rash. The rash can spread to your thighs, butt, breasts, and arms.
  5. FUN FACT: It’s actually more common in first pregnancies and if you’re carrying a boy or multiples.
  6. No one knows for sure what causes PUPPP, but the cause may have something to do with stretch marks. The most popular theory is that your belly gets so big so fast that your skin cells can’t keep up.
  7. There is also no ‘cure’ for PUPPP but there are ways to manage the itch including anti-itch creams, cold compresses, oatmeal baths and antihistamines.
  8. PUPPP is annoying but won’t harm you or your baby. However, there is another pregnancy itch that can. It’s called Cholestasis and is a form of liver disease that only happens during pregnancy. With cholestasis, the itching is mostly on your hands and feet and you may also notice your pee is very dark and that you feel generally unwell. If you do develop an itch, even if you’re sure its just PUPPP, speak to your GP. Both PUPPP rash and cholestasis is determined through a simple blood test.

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Avatar of Taylor Spears

Born and bred in Victoria, Taylor loves animals, Halloween and cooking. She is a whiz at all things social media & creating content, owns her own Halloween shop and is a mum to a toddler named Bobby and a cow named Holly. When not at work you can find Taylor in the garden or chasing her son around their farm.

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