You're itchy. It started on your tummy, which you just attributed to the ever stretching skin. But now the itchy red bumps and hives have spread to your legs -- and even your behind! This is more than just dry skin.
It's not going away, and it itches more than when you had chicken pox in second grade! During the last few months of pregnancy, about 1 in 200 women develops "pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy." The name sounds as awkward as the condition can make you feel! Called "PUPPP" for short, the condition usually starts as itchy red bumps and larger patches of hives on your abdomen. Often, the bumps form in your stretch marks, then within a few days spread to buttocks, thighs and arms. PUPPP generally affects women only during their first pregnancies.
Women in the last half of their pregnancy also can get a skin condition called prurigo of pregnancy (or prurigo gestationis). Small red bumps that resemble bug bites appear on the arms and legs.
Neither of these conditions will harm your baby -- even though the itchy eruptions will try your sanity. Though there is no concrete evidence, many experts believe that PUPPP is your body's reaction to a rapidly expanding belly!
Expect the itching to last about six weeks and resolve itself a week or two after delivery. The worst itching generally lasts a week or so.
First, call your health care provider. He or she can examine the rash and prescribe a treatment. He or she likely will prescribe a high-strength steroid cream or ointment.
For the itching associated with pregnancy, try these tips:
- Use a mild soap and moisturize with unscented lotions.
- Take a warm oatmeal bath. The oatmeal will help soothe skin.
- Wear loose cotton clothing.
- Use a baking soda paste for intense itching. It's messy, but baking soda can help relieve itching.
- Use a cooling aloe gel that contains camphor or menthol.
- Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or Calamine lotion to relieve the itch.
- Don't scratch! The relief will be temporary, and you'll further irritate your skin in the long run.
- Don't take a hot shower or bath. Hot water will dry out skin and exacerbate the itching. Opt for warm water.
- Don't use heavily perfumed soaps or lotions. Scents can worsen irritation.
- Don't take any antihistamines (or any other medications) without first talking to your health care provider.
Although these skin changes may seem unsightly and disappointing, they are a small price to pay for the joy of having a child. So instead of feeling self-conscious about your new stretch marks, change your attitude-and consider them a badge of honor in the wonderful world of motherhood.