Thursday, October 2, 2014

PUPPP. Otherwise known as agony.

So I'm usually pretty silly and sarcastic in my blog posts. I'm a silly person, and I believe life is better when you are laughing. However, this post is different because I can't joke about this. It's too awful, and I'm not yet to the point where anything about it is funny. I'll probably come to that point someday, but that day is not today.

PUPPP. You've probably never heard of it, and if you have, it's probably because you had it (in which case, I'm so so sorry...) PUPPP stands for Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy, but I know it better as agony. It is rare, only affecting less than one percent of pregnant women. It usually develops at the end of the third trimester, and it is awful.

But let me back up in my story.

About a week and a half ago, I started to itch on my abdomen. Nothing strange about that, pregnant women get itchy skin all of the time. Something about stretching skin. No big deal.

But then that itch got really bad. I couldn't stop scratching. It itched and it itched and it itched and no matter what I did, I could not make it go away. It was maddening. My skin became raw. My stretch marks started to swell into bumpy red masses and blood came to the surface. And still I could not stop scratching.

So I went in to see the doctor and she decided to run tests for Cholestasis, which is a liver disorder that is very dangerous to the baby. They took my blood and sent me home with instructions to try oatmeal baths and to try not to scratch. As if I could control it. (By the way, test results came back negative for Cholestasis, thank goodness.)

That was last Wednesday. By Saturday, the itch had spread to my hips and thighs, but my belly was still the biggest offender. I woke up several times a night to scratch. My husband tried to hold my hands away from me to get me not to scratch, but the intense, horrific itch was so bad I felt like my mind was going to explode.

Come Sunday night, the itch had spread down my legs to my ankles, and little red bumps were starting to appear on my hips.

Sunday night I itched so badly that I hardly slept at all. I was beside myself. I was coming unglued. My skin was on fire. If I scratched, it burned, and if I didn't, it burned. I couldn't win.

Tuesday morning I awoke to find my upper thighs covered in blisters. It freaked me out and I called my doctor as soon as their office opened to demand to be seen.

She took a look at the bumps all over my belly and thighs and diagnosed me with PUPPP.

There is no cure for PUPPP except delivery of the baby. PUPPP is not dangerous for mother or baby (though I might disagree with that "not dangerous" thing... I really feel on the edge of a nervous breakdown with this itch).

And it will get worse. That was the part that stuck out to me when the doctor said it. It will continue to get worse until you have your baby.

When I got home, I searched the internet for information. But there isn't a lot of it out there. Because it doesn't affect very many pregnant women, not much research has been done on it. They don't know what causes it (though there are hypotheses about the woman's body having an allergic reaction to the baby's DNA... crazy!). There is no cure except for delivery, so it is treated only for the symptoms (and even then, treatments are spotty. They had me on Benadryl, which did nothing. I'm now on Zyrtec, which seems to help a tiny amount, but not much. They recommend oatmeal baths and baking soda baths and cold compresses and sleeping pills to make you just sleep through the itch. In extreme cases, steroid treatments are prescribed, but that's an absolute last resort because steroids are not great for an unborn baby...)

Anyway. The red rash has started to show up on my lower legs and even my feet now. My arms are starting to itch and redden. I'm even feeling itchy bumps beginning on the palms of my hands.

This is a picture of my arm from last night:


And this is my leg (photo taken just a second ago):


I'm not even going to show you what my hips and thighs look like. Just imagine that but way worse and with blisters all over that look like I was attacked by every mosquito on earth.

I've been reading articles written by other PUPPP sufferers. A few who have had PUPPP and given birth to their babies say they would rather go through childbirth again than get PUPPP again. Some women with severe PUPPP have even been admitted to psych wards for nervous breakdowns. While my PUPPP is not as severe as some of those cases, I now understand that an itch like this is not a trivial thing. I know that my case of PUPPP is mild compared to other women, and my heart aches for them.

As I shrieked and cried at 2am last night trying to keep from clawing the skin off of my body, my husband held me in his arms and reminded me of the only thing keeping me sane through this: "It's for our son. Just hang on for our son."

So whenever the itch gets so bad I want to cut off my flesh with a butcher knife, I remind myself that I'm doing this for my son. These last couple of weeks are so important to his development. I am counting the days til he gets here... not only so that I can be free from PUPPP, but also because I can't wait to meet the little boy that has already stolen my heart in so many ways. I adore him, and I'm willing to do anything for him. I'll scratch my body to bits if I need to.

I'm going to go bathe in baking soda now and dream of the day I get to meet my baby boy.

Less than four weeks until my due date. I can make it, right?