Category Archives: Postpartum

What the… PUPPP?

Well, it’s been a little while since I posted. And there’s a reason (other than having a newborn). It’s called PUPPP – an acronym I have grown to loathe in epic proportions over the last few weeks – that stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. Or, hell on earth.

It all started with a little itch on my belly about a week postpartum. Just a little itch. Within minutes I was scratching my belly so hard that the stretch marks that had popped up during pregnancy turned into raised and angry looking welts. I figured it was kind of weird, but I chalked it up to the fact that my skin had gone through a lot of changes. Then my breasts got itchy (not fun when you’re breastfeeding), my legs, and my arms. I broke out into a rash that looked like mutant chicken pox and if that wasn’t enough, it itched to a maddening level. The only thing that made it feel better, temporarily, was itching. The itching, in turn, made it all worse because then it itched MORE. The most vicious of vicious cycles… I quite literally could. not. stop.

My mind started racing (cue freak out). What could it be? Chicken pox? Shingles? Poison ivy? Poison something else? By the time I was able to see my dermatologist, I was covered in this rash. He asked a few questions, took a peek at the damage, and broke the news: it was PUPPP, a condition that most commonly shows up in women while they are still pregnant and it generally resolves at birth. Well… since I was no longer pregnant, I could not count on it going away at any particular point.

Just a glimpse of the gorgeous PUPPP on my legs!

Just a glimpse of the gorgeous PUPPP on my legs!

As if trying to take care of a newborn, dealing with all of the fun postpartum stuff that happens to your body physically and emotionally, trying to manage the itching was ridiculous. I had a steroid ointment from the dermatologist that I wasn’t crazy about using while breastfeeding, so I used it very sparingly and only when things were so bad that I was driven to tears of frustration, discomfort, and pain. I spent a fortune on lotions and potions and became even more of a regular at our local CVS (I’m really glad that place is open 24 hours).

One of the midwives suggested that this might resolve around the six week postpartum mark and lo and behold… it did! Judging from what I read online about other women’s experiences, this is not always the case. I can only hope it is on its way out and never, ever, returns. The itching started to subside, the welts calmed down, and the areas I had itched until they bled started scabbing over. I still have periods where I am itchy, but nothing like it was during the height of my PUPPP-induced insanity.

I’m writing this post because I hope other women who desperately scour Google for PUPPP information will find this. And if that’s you, there are a few things I want to share with you:

  1. IT WILL GO AWAY. It cannot last forever. But I know… when you are itching your body to complete ruin, it is really hard to see an end in sight. But it’s only temporary!
  2. Feel bad for yourself. Go ahead! Bitch, moan, complain, cry, whatever you need to do! Whether you are pregnant or with a newborn, either way it SUCKS. Wallow in your own misery for a bit, but try not to let that take away the joy of pregnancy or of a newborn – not easy to do, but also time you’ll never get back.
  3. No one, other than women who have had PUPPP, will understand the depths of your insanity as a result of this rash. Adding the discomfort and downright pain of the rash and itching on top of pregnancy (or in my case, caring for a newborn) is a recipe for crazy town. (If you need to talk to someone who can relate – even if it’s to bitch, vent, and cry about it, email me: betterbalancedlife@gmail.com. Seriously.)
  4. It seems that what brings relief for some women does not work for others. Don’t get discouraged… just try something else!

I took everything I found on the web and sifted through to identify products I would be willing to try. Here goes the list, ranked in order of helpfulness – I will add that I’m not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. This is just what I found worked for me:

  • Sarna lotion. worked really well to relieve the itch. I put it in the fridge and put it on cool – felt SO nice.
  • Ice. Perhaps the most effective relief was simply numbing the itchy area. This is hard to do if your entire body is itching, but for “spot itching” it’s a miracle. I literally slept with ice packs rigged to my legs.
  • Dandelion root tincture. Picked some of this up at the local health mart and took it 2x a day. About 4-5 days after I started taking it, the rash started to go away. Coincidence? Maybe! But I think it helped.
  • Cortisone cream. Worked somewhat, but not enough.
  • Gold Bond Medicated Lotion. Was good for when the rash started drying up, since it has a moisturizing component to it.
  • Oatmeal baths. It was too soon postpartum for me to soak in the tub, so I made a paste out of the Aveeno oatmeal bath mix and rubbed it all over my body. Biggest mistake ever…. it burned, burned, burned. Others found the oatmeal bath helpful.
  • Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap. I bought this, but didn’t use it. It smells like campfire and I hate that smell… others have found it very helpful though! 

Elizabeth gave me enough time to write this post, but now she’s crying and hungry so… that’s all folks! Over and out – and good luck with the PUPPP, if that’s why you’re here!

*UPDATE – July 2016. We welcomed our second child, a baby boy, last December. I am so pleased to share that the PUPPP didn’t come back with this baby. I was so terrified that it would… and every itch, scratch, etc. I was sure it was going to flare up. I wish everyone the same luck on the next go-round! ❤

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Elizabeth’s Birth Story

We welcomed Elizabeth Suzanne late on Friday, May 24th after a lovely labor and hypnobirth! It’s been a wild few weeks, and we’ve been having a great time as parents so far. We started the pregnancy going a rather traditional route, through an OB, and quickly changed course to midwifery care through the Connecticut Childbirth and Women’s Center. We felt they respected our needs, wishes, and wants while providing the most compassionate care we could have ever imagined. A thousand thank yous to the entire staff are not enough!

Without further ado, here is Elizabeth’s birth story.

Thursday, May 23. I was 40 weeks, 4 days and getting a little bit impatient and anxious. My husband debated going to the firehouse for his shift that day – I encouraged him to go because sitting around to wait for me go into labor wasn’t going to make it happen any sooner. I went to bed around 11pm and woke up at 1am to our dog staring at me and whining.  He wouldn’t leave me alone, and had been acting strange towards me all week… he knew something was going on. After he hounded me for a few more minutes, I caved to taking him out in the middle of the night. I rolled my pregnant self out of bed to find my bathrobe but as soon as my feet hit the ground, I realized he had simply been trying to tell me something: my membranes had ruptured (water broke) and it was go time!

After getting over how cool it was that the dog woke me up for this, I could think of nothing else other than how happy and excited I was that our baby was finally ready to meet us and immediately started talking to the baby about what a nice labor we were about to have. At that point, we still didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. I spent a lot of time prior to Elizabeth’s birth day preparing for her birth – whatever that was going to be. So much of that mental preparation came from the Hypnobirthing class we took (pregnant mamas in Fairfield/Westchester… click the link and sign up to take Muneeza’s class!). After spending hours learning how to fully relax, reciting affirmations about birth, and taking in as much information as possible about labor,  there was no reason for me to be anxious or nervous about anything.

The CCWC is about 50 minutes away from our house without traffic, so I prepared the car for the possibility that things could get messy. Chris got home from work and by the time we got on the road it was 2:30am and free of the Memorial Day traffic that would surely block the roads later on that day. By the time we got there, around 3:30am, I received the first round of antibiotics for my Group B strep. The on-call midwife informed us that with GBS mothers, they like to see the baby birth within 24 hours. I tucked that into the back of my head, and we were on our way to a nearby hotel to get some sleep instead of driving back home.

It was next to impossible to sleep (how could I sleep when something SO exciting was happening?!) but I got a few hours of shut-eye in between what were very mild surges (contractions). We woke up, had breakfast, and went for a walk later that morning until we went back to CCWC for a mid-morning check-in. Turns out I was only 2cm dilated which didn’t bode well for our baby to be born within the day. Our midwife discussed options with us – continue to get rounds of antibiotics and risk infection for baby and/or mom, or change our birth plan and head to the hospital for a Pitocin drip.

There was that word. Pitocin. The only part of our natural birth plan where the word Pitocin appeared was in a sentence that read, “Absolutely NO offers of Pitocin or pain meds unless a medical necessity or emergency.” In the moment, I went back to one of the most important takeaways from class – that as much as you can try to plan something, there are still unexpected turns. This was one of them.

Most importantly, I felt very safe and confident in the hands of the midwives at CCWC. If one of their most seasoned midwives was telling me we needed to seriously consider pit, then we would consider it. I knew she wouldn’t steer us wrong, and she wanted to see us have a birth as close to our plan as possible. I also reminded myself that we were prepared to handle whatever turn Elizabeth’s birth would take – whether it meant Pitocin, pain meds, or in the worst case scenario, an emergency C-section. Together, we decided to head over to the hospital in a couple of hours, and I held it together until we got in the car.

To be honest, I was worried. What if it made my surges crazy? What if it put the baby in danger? What if things didn’t go smoothly? What if, what if, what if. After a few deep breaths, I put on my big girl pants and we moved on with our day. We fueled up on a big lunch at a nearby diner, and then checked in at L&D at the hospital.

Once we got set up and started the Pitocin drip, I made a point to stay as as calm and relaxed as possible. I listened to the Hypnobirthing CD, relaxed, and settled in for the ride. Luckily, my body cooperated with the Pitocin as my surges increased fairly rapidly in intensity and frequency. I had to wear the fetal monitor throughout labor which felt a bit like a tether, but the upside was that the soundtrack to labor was Elizabeth’s heartbeat. I was so worried beforehand about what music I would want to listen to while I was laboring, but it turned out that while being hooked up to the fetal monitor was a bit of a pain… it meant that the soundtrack to the day was Elizabeth’s heartbeat and I didn’t want to hear anything else. The steady drumbeat of her heart was enough to relax me and help me focus on the task at hand.

I moved around a bit – walked the halls, labored in the tub for a little while, made trips back and forth to the bathroom. I relaxed through each surge as much has possible and relied on the breathing techniques we learned in class as well as reaching back to every single yoga class I’ve ever taken. I reminded myself that if I had successfully held complicated yoga poses in a sweltering hot yoga class for much longer than any of the contractions lasted… this was going to be more than manageable. My husband was my rock – he was with me every step of the way, holding my hand and encouraging me to work through each surge. He didn’t flinch, once!

After about six hours of increasingly frequent and intense surges, I knew Elizabeth was ready to start making her way into the world. I gave my body up to the birthing process – putting all of my energy into each surge to help her birth. It took about two more hours, but Elizabeth did a great job of moving and twisting and turning when she needed to, and I was able to reach down and touch her head as she was crowning. They put the mirror up and I caught a glimpse of what was happening. I spent a couple of moments thinking, “Holy s&#! that’s my body and there’s our baby’s head and OMG what a beautiful, crazy, emotional thing is happening!” I heard the encouragement of my husband , our midwife, and L&D nurse all saying the same thing, “You’re so close. This is it. Almost here!”

A few incredibly intense surges later, she emerged into the world and our midwife put her on my chest. I could not stop smiling and kissing and smelling this little baby and saying to Chris, “We have a baby, we have a baby!” Our midwife reminded Dad that we were all waiting to know if it was a boy or a girl, and he beamed with pride when he announced, “It’s a girl!” To boot, she was born just shy of midnight on my maternal grandmother’s birthday. It’s pretty cool how life works sometimes.

Over the last few weeks I have felt a whole new level of love – emotions beyond anything I could have imagined. If it’s even possible, I am more in love with my husband every day – I see him holding our daughter and being an awesome dad; and when I see our daughter I am overcome with love and  joy and gratitude and excitement for what’s to come. Cheers!

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