PUPPP: It Can Happen To You, Too

by Darcie McCann
Originally Published: 
A pregnant woman standing in jeans with the top button unbuttoned

I was pregnant with my first child, and things had been going well for the most part. I had terrible heartburn that I soothed with high-dosage antacids. I was swollen like a freaking balloon, and all I wanted to eat was Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and popsicles. It was July, and I had my air conditioning set to 58 degrees most days.

I also had higher blood pressure than I should have, but my doctor wasn’t too worried about it because I wasn’t showing other signs of preeclampsia. I was about eight months along when a friend asked me if I had any stretch marks yet. Nope, I was on easy street as far as that went. My skin had remained unscathed, and I sort of felt guilty about it. I mean, everyone gets stretch marks.

About a week went by, and my Cheetos diet wasn’t helping my heartburn any, but I still ate bags of them and resorted to sleeping upright on the couch. After a few nights of this, I started to realize that my feet were itchy. The only culprit I could come up with was that I had fleas. Our dog slept on the couch often. I figured she must have fleas and now I had fleas, and I didn’t know what the fuck to do about that.

Another day went by and my hands started to itch, and then finally later on, my belly started to itch. I brushed off the belly itching as a normal part of pregnancy and continued my Google searches for “Do humans get fleas?” and “How the fuck do I get rid of fleas?”

But then the itching got worse and worse. My husband told me not to scratch. The nurse hotline said to get some anti-itch cream and that it was probably just some stretching skin. Nothing helped, and I started to notice those stretch marks that I thought I’d escaped. They were everywhere, and within days, my whole stomach was covered in them—not like two, not 12, not that you could tell one mark from another, but my whole stomach was covered in a blanket of broken skin.

Fine. I could get over that, but the itching was killing me. By the time I saw my doctor next, I had what looked like one large scab covering most of my belly. She diagnosed me with pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) and basically told me I was shit out of luck. The cure is giving birth, and there’s not much else you can do about it.

The days went on, the bumps on my legs and arms weren’t as noticeable, but my belly looked like something out of a horror movie, like some form of evil torture had been done to me, and it felt like it too. I explained to people that it mostly happens to women carrying boys, mostly during the first pregnancy, but that no one really knows why. Their attempts to sympathize did not mix well with my hormones and things like, “That’s so weird,” were not making me feel any better. I started to become seriously pissed at the whole situation.

Nearing the end of my pregnancy, my doctor again took my blood pressure and inspected my belly. I told her how damn miserable I was, and she finally decided to induce labor a week early. After I gave birth, I felt immediate relief from the itching. Though it could be because I was more worried about, y’know, having a baby than a stupid rash. It cleared itself up after a couple of weeks and only left behind a massively battered belly. Every pregnancy thereafter, I freak out when something itches, and I inspect every little inch of my skin praying it doesn’t return.

So lovely pregnant women of the world, you’ve been warned. You might join the club if you’re the 1 in 200 women it happens to. And if it does, it will go away, but not before driving you crazy.

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