I may receive a commission if you purchase something mentioned in this post. See more details here.
Around 38 weeks pregnant, the area just under my belly button started to itch a bit. I figured it was just stretch marks and irritation from my belly hanging so low over my lap and pants. By Monday, I realized I had some sort of rash going on. It was just in a narrow line between my belly button and pubic bone. I focused my stretch mark cream on that area to help soothe the irritation.
By Thursday night (39 weeks + 1 day) I was in excruciating pain.
We’re talking up in the middle of the night, sobbing, as I applied every soothing, moisturizing, or itch-relieving remedy I could get my hands on.
And why? PUPPP. I didn’t understand why I had developed this horrible rash. All I knew was that I needed to find some natural remedies for PUPPP relief. Now.
What is PUPPP?
PUPPP stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. Which is science for “itchy hives-like blisters and crusty awfulness during pregnancy.” It is known in the UK as polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP). No one knows what causes it, just that it is more common when the woman is carrying a large baby, multiples, or a boy. But you can still get this lovely pregnancy rash while carrying a small, single girl.
It occurs in about 1 out of every 200 pregnancies. Yet no one ever talks about it. I had never heard of PUPPP before I started researching this rash on my stomach. But once I read about it, there was no mistaking that this was the misery I was dealing with.
PUPPP generally starts developing on the stomach within the stretch marks. It can then spread to the rest of the body, although face, belly button, and genitals are usually spared. It can start at any time in pregnancy, but usually not until the 3rd trimester. I was lucky to not have my rash develop to an excruciating level until 39 weeks of pregnancy. Although my remaining time pregnant was just as painfully slow, I know that it could have been much, much worse.
The good news is that as devastating as this rash can be, it poses no risk for mom or baby. When I went into the midwife, she told me it was normal and to just do what I need to in order to stay comfortable. It just itches like nobody’s business all over your entire body.
Oh, and there is no cure. The only way to get rid of PUPPP is to have a baby.
Natural Remedies for PUPPP Relief
So how do you deal with the itching, burning, wanting to tear your skin off, up in the middle of the night crying wonderfulness? I’ll be honest, this rash dominated my life while I was working on getting it under control. I luckily had a long weekend off of work to do so, because I couldn’t bring myself to do anything other than sit on the couch and wallow in my misery.
Does it sound like I’m being overly dramatic? Until you’ve had PUPPP, you can’t understand how bad this itching is. Seeing someone in person with it does help with the empathy, though. My husband and mother were so understanding. I’d keep my poor husband up at night, but he would just be there to help me through whatever I needed to get through what I was feeling. Even if that meant getting out of bed to fetch me an ice pack.
Modern medicine won’t suggest anything other than topical creams. At my worst I took some Benadryl to help me sleep through the night, which my midwife told me was safe. Since my PUPPP is over such a large area of the body, I just don’t feel comfortable using creams that warn against use over a large area. Besides, the steroid creams often recommended can thin out the skin. This is the last thing you want over your already stretched to the limit belly!
My first piece of advice is to get started with these natural remedies for PUPPP relief as soon as possible. The sooner you can start managing this and find relief, the better off you will be in the long run.
1. Don’t Scratch!
Don’t even touch.
Okay, I know all you women out there with PUPPP just rolled your eyes at me. Possibly called me a mean name. That’s okay. I can handle it. But that doesn’t change the fact that the best thing you can do for this pregnancy rash is to leave it alone.
Touching the rash makes it itch. Scratching the rash makes it itch worse. And it hurts, too. It’s not even that satisfying because the itch continues and you are damaging your poor, fragile skin. Yeah I did it anyway, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea.
But most importantly, scratching that itch actually helps the rash spread. I have noticed a direct correlation between where and how much I am scratching, and how quickly the rash is spreading in that area. When I’m constantly scratching my thighs, all of a sudden they are covered in a PUPPP rash. When I fight and fight and fight to not even touch my stomach more than I need to, the rash stopped spreading out in what my husband calls a “hurricane of fire.” Combined with the other tips below, I was even able to get the rash to fade.
Do whatever you need to from the list below to find relief from the itch. Just make sure you do it before you have scratched too much!
2. Pine Tar Soap
It sounds weird, and I still don’t entirely know why it works. But if you do any reading in forums about PUPPP, you will find Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap at the top of the list of natural remedies for PUPPP relief. It can be found from Amazon or at a variety of chain stores. I found mine at Whole Foods.
Lather up the affected area about 3 times a day. I make sure to also get the surrounding area, in case any rash is thinking about creeping up. Let it sit on your skin for a few minutes before rinsing off. Some people mention leaving it on even longer to really let it work its magic.
When my rash was just on my stomach, I would lather up at the sink and let the soap sit for awhile before wiping off. Be warned that you need to use a very soft cloth (I used flat cloth diapers) and be prepared to handle any itching after wiping the soap off your stomach.
Once my rash began to cover my arms and legs as well (this literally happened within 2 days of it taking over my stomach – the rash moves fast), I hopped in the shower twice a day to get a more effective and all-over lather before gentle rinsing off with cool or lukewarm water. Pat dry – no rubbing!
Some people report complete relief from PUPPP in 3 days. By the 5th day my stomach was pretty much there. Unfortunately my legs and arms were neglected so I was still in battle.
3. Cold Compress
How do you keep yourself from scratching? The cold compress, my friend! Words can not describe how soothing a ice-cold towel feels on inflamed skin. By reducing the itching and the swelling, the cold compress goes a long way for PUPPP relief.
Simply soak a tea towel or cloth diaper in water, wring out, and place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Store in the fridge if you don’t want it to get too cold, but it’s August and I’m 9 months pregnant and the ice feels nice. 🙂
Place over the itchy area and swap out as necessary. I always have at least two rotating between me and the freezer.
4. Healing Balms
In the early stages, shea butter helped a lot with quelling the itch. As things got more severe, rubbing the thick shea butter in irritated my skin and I found that letting it dry out worked better. As my PUPPP rash healed, I switched back to using liberal amounts of homemade stretch mark cream to heal the damaged skin.
I recommend testing what works for you. For me, the itchiness caused by touching my rash was not mitigated by the soothing and healing creams and butters I was using. So I stopped and focused on pine tar soap and cold compresses. For others, they find huge relief in shea butter or coconut oil. Add lavender essential oil for more soothing relief. While not a moisturizer, aloe vera gel may also help.
5. Loose, Cotton Clothing
Ditch the belly panels! At my worst I wore the same dress 3 days in a row, hunkered down on the couch with my ice-cold cloth diapers and a crochet project. My maternity dresses offered light protection that didn’t irritate my skin.
6. Other Itch-Relieving Options
Do you have a favorite natural remedy for itchy relief? Try it out! If you are concerned about the ingredients effects on baby at all, talk to your doctor or midwife. If everything is a go, it can’t hurt to see if that is what does the trick for you. From essential oils (well diluted) to body butters to herbs, there are many more options available than what I have listed here.
7. A Dietary Component?
I unfortunately do not have the freedom in my diet at the moment to explore this component. However, there are 2 things that may help if you do. 1. Many people swear by drinking a glass of original V8 morning and night for relief from the rash. 2. There is some evidence that cutting out dairy may help, but I have not found any testimonies supporting this. I also do not know how long you can expect to wait to see results. If you try it and do notice that a change in your diet helps, let me know in the comments!
Have you dealt with PUPPP? What natural rememdies for PUPPP relief did you find to be most helpful?
Like what you see? Please support this blog and help me keep it running by signing up for my newsletter, purchasing products, or donating through the links below:
DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. The information contained in this post is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.