7 Things Your Ob-Gyn Wants You to Know About That PUPPs Rash

Here's everything expecting moms need to know about this bothersome pregnancy rash.

1/7 View as List

Decoding the name


First things, first. What exactly does PUPPs stand for? It's an acronym for a pregnancy rash; the letters break down to pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. Care to say that 10 times fast?

First-time moms are at greater risk of PUPPs


"PUPPs rash is the most common dermatological symptom we see in pregnancy," explains Brian Levine, MD, board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist and the New York practice director for the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine. About one in 250 pregnant women contracts the rash; Dr. Levine estimates that about 75 of the patients he sees with PUPPs are first time moms. You're also at increased risk for developing PUPPs pregnancy rash if you underwent IVF or are pregnant with multiples, according to Dr. Levine.

No one knows exactly what causes PUPPs


Avoiding PUPPs rash should be as easy as knowing what causes it, right? Unfortunately, it isn't that easy. The jury is still out on exactly what causes expecting moms to develop this rash. "There is a theory that some people believe it could be due to increased abdominal distention," Dr. Levine says, meaning that some moms might react negatively to the growth of the stomach. "I think it is probably the hormone levels that cause this to happen in women who have twins and triplets, because the rash isn't only located on the abdomen." (Check out the 10 things never to say to a pregnant woman.)

Spot the symptoms of a PUPP rash


If you think you might be getting PUPPs, there are a few symptoms to keep an eye out for. "PUPPs has a characteristic look," explains Dr. Levine. It starts with red, bumpy papules that are within the stripes or striations (stretch marks) on your abdomen, but not your belly button, he says. Check out these other skin and hair surprises that happen during pregnancy.

The rash might spread


"After it starts on your belly, all bets are off," Dr. Levine warns. It can spread to your extremities, including your hands, arms, and legs, though it's uncommon to see PUPPs breakouts on your face, palms, or the soles of your feet. "It can also cause plaques, the other 'P' within the 'PUPP.' The plaques are itchy and this is what women complain about."

Get a diagnosis


Knowing the symptoms isn't enough. Expecting moms should see their doctor for a formal diagnosis because a rash can mean other things during pregnancy. "We always worry about a rash in a woman who is pregnant, because it could be measles or chicken pox, which can be really dangerous to a baby," says Dr. Levine. "PUPPs is a relatively benign condition."

Ease PUPP symptoms


Good news! There is a cure for PUPPs. The bad news? The cure is giving birth. "In general, the itchiness is cured by delivery, but the itchiness can actually immediately worsen for the couple days after delivery. It generally resolves by two weeks after birth," Dr. Levine says. You can manage your symptoms in the meantime. Dr. Levine suggests using a warm, not hot, oatmeal bath to get relief from the itchiness. A mid-potency, topical steroid or a non-drowsy anti-histamine can also help with the bothersome symptoms that come with this rash. If you have any questions or concerns about treating the symptoms, check with your OB.

1/7 View as List

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.