PUPPPS may sound like a cute acronym, but ask any pregnant woman who has experienced it and you will soon realize this condition is anything but cute.
PUPPPS stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. This translates to “itchy, allergy-like rash during pregnancy”. PUPPPS is a hive-like rash that occurs in around 1 in 200 women during pregnancy. The rash is itchy and most commonly starts on the abdomen and may spread to the legs, feet, arms, chest and neck but usually does not occur on the face.
We don’t know why some women develop PUPPPS during pregnancy but it most often begins in stretch marks and is more common in women with significant skin stretching. Women with large fundal measurements and those who are carrying large babies or twins and triplets are at greater risk.
Interestingly there is a higher rate of PUPPPS in women carrying boys. Statistics have shown that 70% of women with PUPPPS deliver boys. Researchers think this may be due to male DNA interacting with the mother’s body, leading to irritation.
The good news is that PUPPPS, aside from causing itching and irritation, has no long term negative effects on either the mother or the baby and tends to resolve on its own within a week of delivery.
Most treatments for PUPPPS involve hydrating the skin and keeping the mother comfortable. Certain antihistamines may also be tried. From a Naturopathic perspective, we focus on decreasing the allergic response of the immune system, supporting the detoxification properties of the liver, decreasing inflammation and helping to clear and possible underlying causes.
6 Natural Treatment Options for PUPPPS
Increase vegetable consumption and vegetable juice consumption
To optimize liver function by supplying healthy antioxidants and cholagogues (plant based compounds that support optimal liver function). Ideal vegetables are dark green leafy vegetables, beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussels sprouts, kale and kohlrabi
Also increase consumption of canned tomatoes for the lycopene content, an excellent antioxidant and member of the beta carotene family – but be sure to choose organic canned tomatoes to decrease exposure to BPA. Glass containers are even better.
High quality omega 3 rich oils
Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon and fish oil supplements help to improve the fluidity of skin membranes, decreasing the potential for stretch marks. Omega 3 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory and can help to decrease the production of inflammatory mediators, decreasing redness and itching in skin rashes.
Consume omega-3 rich foods such as ground flax seeds and chia seeds daily. Consume omega 3 rich fish (those that are safe in pregnancy include salmon, tilapia, cod and Pollock) at least two to three times per week. An omega 3 rich fish oil supplement may also be recommended by your Naturopathic Doctor.
Moisturize the skin with a soothing moisturizer
Coconut oil is a safe choice for pregnancy and is highly moisturizing. Chickweed ointment is another stellar choice as chickweed is a natural antihistamine and can greatly reduce itching sensations.
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinalis)
Another highly effective treatment for PUPPPS. Dandelion acts as a hepatic and cholagogue – it enhances the function of the liver and gallbladder, clearing inflammation and congestion through that system. It is highly indicated for chronic skin eruptions, especially those that are hot, red or itchy.
Dandelion is available as a tea (which will have diuretic effects) or as a capsule. For PUPPPS I usually recommend starting with a tea and introducing a supplement if needed.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
Mike thistle is a liver supportive treatment that can be used to enhance the actions of dandelion root or on it’s own. It is effective in increasing the secretion and flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder. Milk thistle also promotes milk secretion and is encouraged for breast-feeding mothers.
Avoid food sensitivities
There is some research suggesting a correlation between food sensitivity (especially dairy) and PUPPPS. Consider food sensitivity testing or elimination diets to address symptoms.
PUPPPS can be a difficult condition to life with, and with the support of naturopathic medicine you may not need to! Gentle and safe natural treatments are available. Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor today to put together a plan.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.