It's been hot today and it's made me wonder if Summer is finally going to be here for longer than two hours at a time. I'm not a huge fan of sweltering heat, but I do like feeling the sun on my skin and the warm summer breeze brushing the hairs on my arm. Two years ago, this was not the case.
Almost exactly two years ago I was coming to the end of the most horrendous side-effect of my pregnancy with The Boy. And yes, for those of you in the know, The Boy celebrated this second birthday three weeks ago. So how exactly was I still having pregnancy related health issues for nearly a month after he was born?
Once the constant morning sickness that I had suffered from for every waking moment for five months had finally left me, I thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant. My hair and skin blossomed, I put on minimal weight; in actual fact I weighed a stone and a half less within days of having The Boy, than before I'd been pregnant. I slept well, I was calm and content, nothing fazed me; I truly flourished. That was until half way through the third trimester.
I was due to start maternity leave a day after our school inspection finished, and yes I was slightly stressed but nothing to cause concern. So when my skin started getting itchy, I just put it down to stress. Suffering from an underactive thyroid, I am used to having very hot hands and feet, and with the summer heat they can get irritated easily. However this kind of itchiness was different. With it came raised bumps, more than just hives, almost like chicken pox pimples. I popped into the midwife who ruled out obstetric cholestasis thankfully, and she just put it down to the heat. I mentioned it to my consultant as well (who I was seeing because of the thyroid condition) and she also declared it was just a heat rash.
Well when a week later it had spread from my fingers to my forearms, I decided to pop and see the doctor. She gave me vaseline and said it needed moisturising. When that did nothing but make it worse, and with it now spreading completely up my arms and reaching my chest, I demanded to see one of the senior doctors in the practise. Thank goodness I did because he was amazing! Dr. L reached behind him to his battered medical book and flicked through the pages until he found the page he was after:
Polymorphic Eruption of Pregnancy
PEP is a skin condition, which is also known as Priutitic Urticarial Papules in America, that initially takes the shape of itchy wheals and small, solid elevations of the skin. However, after a little while it can develop into red, small blisters and eczema-like lesions. I was lucky that I didn't develop any lesions, but it did spread slowly throughout my body. It started on my hands, went up my arms, down my chest and stomach and to my legs. This is what it looks like:
No, that's not me. PEP is one of the reasons that I had barely any photographs of me taken during the later stages of pregnancy.
It's attractive though isn't it? And bloody painful. I spent the final weeks of being pregnant and the first part of my maternity leave in absolute agony and crying. I was exhausted from a complete lack of sleep. At night, I had to sleep under a single sheet with ice packs against the part of my body that was in contact with the mattress because the increased heat made the rash worse. I was awake every hour or two crying in pain, and my poor husband was on a relay down to the freezer getting me the next batch of ice-packs. Only when I was freezing cold could I sleep.
I was incredibly lucky that Dr. L recognised the symptoms and diagnosed me with it; from my experience and Internet investigation at the time, not many doctors like to diagnose it. My marvellous GP gave me steroid cream (Betnovate) and antihistamines which helped massively. My pharmacist was incredibly sympathetic as she had suffered with it when carrying her son, she reassured me that it magically disappeared three weeks after having delivery. I can't recall when my PEP went, I believe it was around the same time but what with him going into hospital and all, I had other things on my mind!
A very interesting point to consider about PEP is that certain studies (a few in France) reveal that this condition is more frequent in women carrying boys, apparently it is an allergic reaction to male foetal DNA, although no formal research has been conducted. Statistics cite that 70% percent of sufferers deliver boys.
And what did I have?
References 1 and 2.