While pregnant with her firstborn son, Summer Bostock woke up one morning to "heaps of stretch marks."
"I just thought it was normal – but pretty unfair," she told the Daily Mail. The Australian mom's first two trimesters had gone by without a hitch, but things soon took a turn for the worse. The big blotches grew increasingly itchy and uncomfortable - and spread across her body in a severe case of polymorphic eruption in pregnancy (PEP).
Five years after her 2012 delivery, the Brisbane native is now speaking out about the painful condition, also called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP).
"It was so, so itchy," Bostock recalled. "I was in agony." Unlike most cases, the angry rash affected not just her belly but also her arms, legs and back. "I can't even tell you just how many doctors I saw to try and find something that would work," she told CafeMom.
Experts prescribed creams and ointments, but Bostock still couldn't find relief. At 37 weeks, the pain got so intense it required hospitalization. "By this point, I couldn't even have showers, because the touch of the water against my skin was too much," Bostock said. "I would vomit, the itching was so intense, and at night I couldn't sleep."
Four days later, she finally had her son Izaiah, who's now 5. "As soon as he arrived, the rash started to clear," she said. "By the next day, it had virtually gone."
While experts haven't determined the cause of PUPPP, some theorize that excessive stretching of the skin leads to inflammation. "This is why PUPPP most commonly occurs during first pregnancies or multiple gestation pregnancies," dermatologist Lauren Ploch, M.D., told Parents.
Like most women, the rash didn't come back during Bostock's second and third pregnancies, but she's still raising awareness of the condition. "I love that spreading my story is actually helping mums know what they have or even did have," she told CafeMom. "To just put a name to it and know you're not crazy helps!"
Now she's advising expecting moms to get second opinions. "Research, find out what's going on with your body," she says. "You know your body best!"
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