Imagine your entire skin is red, itchy and on fire. Now imagine that you’re so uncomfortable because of the nasty hives covering your body that holding your newborn baby that you’ve waited so many months for causes you pain. That was what the first few weeks of Keely’s life were like.
Disclosure: I don’ t know if what I had was actually PUPPPS (Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy), but by all accounts it was the same as what I’ve read. My OB wasn’t sure since it got worse after I delivered and referred me to a dermatologist that I never made it to.
At about 36 weeks my stomach started getting itchy. Like consistently itchy, but not unbearable. Every so often I would just lightly scratch and that seemed okay. I thought it was maybe because my skin was dry and just a lot tighter over the area. At my 37 week appointment I mentioned it to my doctor. She said I could take some Benadryl and if need be use hydrocortisone topical cream. I don’t think I ever needed to do that, mainly because I delivered at 38 weeks and my 38 week appointment was more focused on if we should plan induction for the next week.
I remember within 24 hours of delivery feeling itchy again, but like an idiot I didn’t say anything. The night before Derek’s great-aunt’s funeral, when Keely was about 5 days old, it started getting worse. I scratched and scratched until my skin was raw. Then it spread. To my arms. And eventually to my legs. I took some antihistamines and it seemed better.
Then it seemed to subside for about a week, a week that coincided with a drop in my milk supply. The days leading up to moving into our new house it started getting worse. And there was nothing I could do about it. I had no time to go see a doctor, let alone know what kind of doctor I should see. At this point the hives started forming large patches all over my legs and gross large red dots all over my arms. I was so embarrassed. This is when it became hard to hold Keely. I loved her so much and just wanted to snuggle, but my basic self preservation kicked in that holding her made me hot and being hot made me itchy. You also can’t scratch an itch when you’re holding a four week old baby.
My first Mother’s Day was pretty miserable. This was going on, we were unpacking, it was incredibly hot out, and all I wanted to do was scratch. While looking for new couches I would stop every few feet and scratch. I couldn’t help it. It felt like if I didn’t scratch that I would explode.
I started taking Benadryl just to even take the edge off. All the Benadryl made me do was not want to die. Yes, I was a new mom and all I could was scratch and while I was scratch I sometimes wanted to just die. It was that bad. There were times it felt like there was absolutely no relief in sight.
I started feeling like a bad mom because all I could do was scratch. I couldn’t stop. It was becoming a compulsion. I was scratching my skin raw and in some places even causing me to bleed. BUT I COULDN’T STOP. It really ruined my last week of maternity because I was so uncomfortable. I should have spent that time enjoying Keely in our new home, but I was stuck scratching.
While taking my daily oatmeal baths (that actually seemed to help some), I read everything I could online. The main thing I came upon was that it was all hormone based. As long as I was still breastfeeding/pumping those hormones were still in me. And it wasn’t like breastfeeding was going well.
At six weeks post-partum I saw my OB. We talked about it and she prescribed a low-dose steroid pack. It started to get better while I was on the prescription. Then I was done with the doses and it came back a little bit. While in Buffalo a few days later my cousin and I were talking, and she’d been having some issues with itchy skin. It turns out the two were unrelated…her’s is an allergic reaction more towards food and mine was towards the hormones. It was coming home from this trip that I decided to stop pumping.
The incessant itchiness went away. I started to feel like a real person. It was almost like coming out of a slumber. I think it was a combination of a lot of things, but whatever actually made it stop, I needed.
Every once in a while I start to feel itchy again. But no where near what it was like before. I think it’s more of a memory than an actual problem. If you’re going through this, my heart is with you. It’s awful, uncomfortable, and just plain painful. I never went to a dermatologist because I was being stubborn, but don’t let that stop you. Go. Run. Don’t let it get as unbearable as I did.