Postpartum Rash: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Having itchy skin and a rash that appears as small bumps during and after pregnancy is a common complaint in women. This is usually referred to as PUPPS rash and is scientifically called Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy. Sounds pretty hideous huh?  This pre and postpartum rash occurs in 1% of pregnancies and doesn’t do any harm to the mother or baby, but can be a huge inconvenience or annoyance.

Symptoms of PUPPS Rash

PUPPS looks like hives and appears as tiny red bumps along stretch marks and usually erupts in the third trimester. Some of the other symptoms to look for are:

  • Bumps and redness that spreads to the arms, thighs, butt or breasts
  • Severe itching that can last up to a week
  • Itching will last longer than the rash
  • Stretch marks with redness or bumps around them
  • Intense itching at night making it difficult to sleep

What Causes PUPPS Rash

postpartum rashScientists are still studying PUPPS rash and trying to determine the cause for why this rash happens and continues into the postpartum.

One theory is that it could be caused by an allergic reaction to the fetal cells in the mother’s blood or a chemical reaction happening in the body that is only present during pregnancy since the rash is very much like hives.

The rash could also easily just be caused by abdominal stretching and capillaries bursting at the site of stretch marks. The rash does appear simultaneously with stretch marks in the last trimester although the rash can spread beyond the stretch marks and the first place the rash is seen is right around the naval.

Mothers that are more susceptible to PUPPS rash are first time moms and mothers that have a larger weight gain or are pregnant with multiple babies or large babies.

So far, research hasn’t shown a correlation between PUPPS and other pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, hypertension, fetal abnormalities, preterm birth, or any other worrisome conditions; however, having Rh-positive blood and being overweight before pregnancy can also increase your risk factor for developing this rash.

Treating PUPPS Rash

Before starting any treatments during pregnancy or postpartum check with your OB/GYN to make sure that what you are taking is safe for you and your baby, especially if you are nursing.

There are several different treatments that can alleviate the symptoms of itchy red skin and help reduce inflammation in the skin. Some medical treatments your doctor may recommend are:

There are also many holistic remedies that many women swear by. I use Coconut oil on my skin religiously and have not had a rash or break out in years. I also wash my face with baking soda after my workouts and drink Dandelion tea to detox once a week, so a few of these things on the following list I suggest incorporating into your daily routine even without a rash, just to promote healthy skin without harsh chemicals and additives.

  • Drink two cups of Nettle Tea or Dandelion Tea daily to reduce inflammation
  • Takes two tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day
  • Apply Chickweed gel to the rash 3-4 times daily
  • Use pine tar soap with warm, not hot, water, and see results in about a week
  • Instead of drying off after showering apply olive oilto your skin and then pat dry to moisturize.
  • Apply coconut oil to your rash twice a day
  • Make a paste with baking soda or corn starch and apply to rash as needed to relieve itching.
  • Applycold compresses to relieve itching
  • Use OTC calamine lotions to soothe red, burning skin patches
  • Make sure to stay hydrated and get lots of fresh air

PUPPS is not contagious nor does it affect breast milk supply.

Taking Care of Your Skin Postpartum

While only 1 in 100 women will suffer from a skin rash like PUPPS postpartum, it is still going to be more important than evert to take care of your skin properly after child birth.

Your complexion is going to take some time to get back to normal and you may suffer from acne due to hormonal shifts, stress and lack of sleep. You may also notice that even if you don’t get the small red, itchy bumps that comes with PUPPS, that you may have some skin discoloration and stretch marks that are not fading away after the delivery.

If you notice dark spots this is caused by your body’s increased production of melanin during pregnancy. Your body will stop producing so much soon after you wean or stop producing prolactin, but to get the dark spots to fade faster you should:

  • Stay out of the sun
  • Wear an SPF 20 sunscreen everyday
  • Use an estrogen free birth control

Postpartum acne sufferers need to make sure that they are washing their faces at least twice per day to prevent blemishes. I use a baking soda and peroxide all natural cleanser after my work outs to wash away all the sweat and oil from my pours and then use a medicated face wash specifically for acne at night before bed.

If you are nursing, you will want to skip any cleansers that have salicylic acid based formulas. Also, make sure you are getting plenty of fruits and veggies into your diet and leave out the fatty foods and sugar.

postpartum rash prevention vegetables

Hydration is super important as well, especially if you are nursing and already prone to dry skin or acne. You should be shooting for at least 12 glasses of water per day if you are breast feeding and 8-10 per day if you are not.

Stretch Marks are a common problem for women, even those who have never been pregnant. 90% of women have stretch marks on at least one part of their bodies. They are not permanent and will fade over time.

Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet and body weight will help your skin firm back up and tone as you get into shape. You also must make sure you are moisturizing every day.

Many women swear by Coco Butter Formula, and even I have to admit, this stuff really does work. It comes in a jar and if you start using it as soon as you find out you’re pregnant you can possibly prevent stretch marks from ever appearing.

postpartum rash prevention hydrationMederma is another product that is recommended by dermatologists to improve the appearance of stretch marks postpartum through hydration. You won’t notice results immediately. Most of the time with stretch mark creams and lotions, it does take several weeks to begin noticing fading and improvement.

There are even products available that are all natural and can help heal scars and stretch marks such as art naturals where the main ingredients are shea butter and coco butter.

You can also find specialised body restructuring gels that can help you along.

If you have trouble getting the stretch marks to fade or can’t lose enough weight to make them disappear completely, you can talk to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon about medical removal. Laser therapy, also called Retin-A, is a non-invasive technique used to remove stretch marks.

Skin to skin contact with your new born is very important so taking care of your skin and properly caring for any rashes such as PUPPS or hives should be one of your first priorities after the delivery of your baby so that you can enjoy all the cuddles your little one is looking forward to!