It’s time for me to get a little personal as this pregnancy has been good and easy for the most part, but there is a part that has been an enormous struggle. Starting at about 10 weeks I developed a rash on my right breast. It seemed odd, as I am not one to have sensitive skin and never get rashes. Being an NP, I asked myself the same question I had asked many patients and no, I hadn’t changed anything in my routine. I tried all my usual topicals, calendula, cleansing balm, baby balm, several natural topicals from the natural foods store and nothing worked. I eventually caved and tried some over the counter hydrocortisone cream and again, no luck. It was red and itchy.
Then about 4 weeks later I started getting a rash on my lower belly. Again it was red, itchy, and bumpy. This type of itch would go away, it was constant and the only thing that helped was scratching it and if I tried to ignore it it got more intense and started burning. Nothing topical helped.
I had started doing a lot of research on pregnancy rashes and diagnosed myself with prurigo of pregnancy and effects 1 in 300 pregnancies. Etiology is unknown and usually resolves with delivery of the baby. When I read this, I had a sinking feeling. I was only about 14 weeks pregnant and to think I had 26 more weeks of this was not a good feeling to have.
At about 17 weeks it spread to my chest, shoulders and upper arms. The itch was horrible and would wake me up throughout the night. I couldn’t help but scratch, which would cause me to open up the bumps and they would bleed. If I would get hot it would intensify things so nighttime would be worse, after working out or after showers. Again I researched if there was anything I could to do help. I was opposed to using topical steroids as it covered so much of my body and avoid any medications orally if I can. At this point I spent a small fortune in topicals (pine tar soap, arnica tea mixed with apple cider vinegar and baking soda, along with many other creams/lotions). Nothing helped.
I even researched a cooling mattress that cost $500, as nighttime was the worst since I get so hot when I sleep. I started taking apple cider vinegar orally, taking greens and upping my probiotics. I also went on Whole30 to see if diet could help as I had read omitting dairy could be beneficial.
It took about a couple of weeks before I started feeling like there was any improvement, but before I did it had spread to my lower back and legs. My skin was a mess and it was horribly embarrassing. I was so thankful it was winter so I could cover up. At home I would wear the loosest clothes possible and bless Lucas that he put up with my scratching. There was nothing I could do.
Things gradually got better over the 30 days, but they never went away. Christmas and my birthday came and I had about 3 days of total food enjoyment with lots of sugar, gluten and dairy. Those 3 days started about 3 weeks of a horrible flare up. I knew at that moment that my diet was the only thing that was going to help me; so back to strict gluten and dairy free I went. This time it took about 3 weeks before things calmed down, but that damage had already been done to my skin. I know that all the scratching is going to leave scars, but again, there was nothing I could do.
It’s been about 7 weeks from my 3-day clean diet hiatus and I can now say with certainty that the only thing that has given me any relief from this rash and itching is eating paleo and being dairy free. As we have eaten paleo on and off for about 5 years I have known what a tremendous impact it can have on improving health. I am a firm believer that our health starts in our gut, but this is the first time I have had something be impacted so greatly by my diet. It is nice to know that my diet has been spot on for this pregnancy. I know that with Elijah I always felt I could do better, but not this time!
With about 12 weeks left it is nice to know that I am not miserable and hope that the rash continues to stay calm. I’m still itchy, but it has improved a great deal. This baby girl has given me a run for my money already!