What is PUPPS?
PUPPS is short for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. It’s also known as PUPPP. It’s known as polymorphic eruption of pregnancy, or PEP for short. It’s a rash that starts off unobtrusive enough and begin as tiny, itchy red bumps in the stretch marks on the abdomen. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it surrounds, but never affects, the navel. These little red bumps get bigger, forming large patches that spread down the legs, and up the chest. Eventually, most of the body can be covered in the itchy, eczema like rash.
Symptoms of PUPPS
Itchy red bumps
Starts on the abdomen, then spreads
Red, eczema like patches
Why do pregnant women get PUPPS?
While there is speculation, and some good studies out there, we don’t have conclusive answers as to why pregnant women get a PUPPS rash. Here are the main theories:
1. An organ system is overtaxed
Since the liver is the body’s main detox organ, when it becomes overwhelmed with toxins, the symptoms are exhibited through the skin through rashes and discolorations. Many of us already have livers that are compromised from the toxins found in our food, beauty products and environments. Add to that supporting another life, and your body’s organs can really take a beating. (source)
The kidneys are in charge of filtering the body’s blood, and is also thought to play a potential role in PUPPS rash. One study injected 3 moms who had PUPPS with their own blood to try and treat the PUPPS rash. Some herbalists use blood purifying herbs to help treat it. The evidence seems to suggest that cleansing the blood is helpful for PUPPS. (source)
2. Abdominal stretching that causes skin inflammation
Carrying extra weight, having multiples, or large babies puts extra stress on the skin and damages the connective tissue. It starts out as stretch marks, but the damage can cause the skin to be inflamed and develop into a PUPPS rash. (source)
3. Fetal cells migrating to the mother’s skin
There’s an old saying that you’ll carry your children in your arms for a short while, but in your heart forever. Science is finding that that statement is more than just sentimental. During pregnancy, fetal cells migrate to different parts of the mother’s body, including her heart and skin. While this can offer protective benefits from certain diseases, research suggests that your skin may see these cells as foreign invaders, triggering a systemic response and causing a PUPPS rash.
This cell migration is more likely to occur if you’re having a boy. In 60-70% of women with PUPPS, who were carrying boys, male DNA was detected in their PUPPS rash. (source)
Natural treatments for PUPPS
There are many ways to relieve the itching of PUPPS, and there are also natural treatments that can potentially prevent or make the rash go away altogether. (source)
Vegetable juices are a gentle way to cleanse and detox the body. Although there’s no clinical evidence proving vegetable juice will cure your PUPPS, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. Some women swear by this method. (source)
To use: Drink pure vegetable juices throughout pregnancy, but especially during the third trimester. Follow this video post’s recommendations on the best veggies to juice (and which ones should never go through your juicer!) Fresh pressed is best. Don’t drink large amounts of beet juice though, as this is a very potent detoxer.
Gelatin is a super food for skin issues. Did you know that collagen molecules, found in gelatin, are too large to actually penetrate the skin when applied topically? Those expensive collagen creams don’t hold a candle to grass-fed collagen supplements. This helps strengthen and repair damaged connective tissue that can cause PUPPS.
To use: Add a few scoops of grass-fed collagen protein to your smoothie or juice. (where to buy)
Dandelion root and nettle are both liver and blood purifiers that are traditionally used by midwives and herbalists for PUPPS. In fact, this is probably the most popular and effective remedy. Many women have eased their PUPPS by drinking dandelion root tea and/or nettle leaf tea, as well as taking dandelion root capsules. Dandelion root supports the liver while nettles are a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agent. Nettles are also commonly used during pregnancy to help with anemia because it builds iron levels.
To use: Make dandelion root and nettle leaf tea. Take one teabag of your dandelion root (where to buy) or 1 tsp. of loose tea (where to buy) and steep in 1 cup of boiling hot water for at least 10 minutes up to 1 hour. Do the same with nettle leaf tea, either tea bags (where to buy) or loose tea (where to buy). You can also take dandelion root capsules (where to buy) with your midwife or doctor’s approval.
Chamomile, calendula and Chinese skullcap can be used to reduce skin inflammation when applied topically. Since the PUPPS rash often feels hot and irritated, a salve can feel uncomfortable and irritating so isn’t the best option. Herbal extracts added to soothing aloe vera, witch hazel or lotion is the ideal way to apply these herbs to the skin.
To use: Rub a herbal infused lotion (where to buy) onto the abdomen, 3X a day.
Take a bath
Soaking in an oatmeal bath can relieve the itchiness associated with PUPPS. This helps to soothe and moisturize the skin, and can be done several times a day. You can also make a strong tea with soothing herbs like calendula, Chinese skullcap and chamomile to dump in the bath.
To use: Place 1 cup of rolled oats and 1 cup of organic chamomile loose tea (where to buy) into some cheesecloth or an old t-shirt and secure tightly with a rubber band. Drop this into a tub full of warm water and soak for at least 20 minutes. Occasionally squeeze the oats to release their milky liquid.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and this can have a heavy impact on your immune system. Adaptogens help support and modulate the immune system. The body’s response to fetal cells migrating to the mother’s skin, can be calmed with adaptogens. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of research around using these while pregnant so best to be cautious and just use maca, which is deemed safe by most herbalists.
To use: Add 1 TB of maca root to your morning smoothie.
Relaxing your nervous system
PUPPS can start to get on your nerves with the constant itching and unsightly rash. Many women report that the itching keeps them up at night and causes restlessness. Gentle nervines like lavender and chamomile can be used in moderation to relax expectant mothers and promote sleep.