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Itchy pregnancy skin irksome, not a threat

Why do some people have really itchy skin when they are pregnant?

The condition that you may be referring to is called PUPP (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy). It happens in about 1 in 160 pregnancies. Almost all reported cases have begun in the third trimester and most are after the 35th week of the pregnancy, although it can occur at any time during the pregnancy.

In a study at the National Institute of Health with 25 patients diagnosed with PUPP, all except one experienced the onset of PUPP between the 36th and 39th week of pregnancy. One woman developed the lesions in the immediate postpartum period.

Since most cases are associated with women who had significant weight gain or are having multiple babies (twins, triplets, etc.), it is believed that the stretching of the abdomen may play a role in the development of PUPP.

If what you have is PUPP, you need your doctor to make the diagnosis. There is more good news than bad news.

The little skin eruptions called erythematous papules usually first appear on the abdomen. They then can come together and form large erythematous plaques centered around the belly button. The lesions are extraordinarily itchy. Some women have told me they have a hard time sleeping because of the itching. The patches typically then spread to the buttocks and thighs. That is the bad news.

The good news is the papules and plaques rarely go above the breasts. The face is hardly ever involved with these eruptions.

The eruptions seem to disappear within a few days after delivery.

And probably the best news of all is that it is rare for a woman to experience PUPP in a subsequent pregnancy.

Other great news is that it doesn’t seem to affect the health of the baby. There are creams that your doctor can suggest to help with the itching.

Any time you have a concern, you should always call your doctor. Only a physician can make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.

PUPP is very annoying and irritating, but it is not a life-threatening illness.

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Family & Friends. Contact her at katie.powers@mmhhs.com.

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