PUPPS rash (also known as PUPPS) is an itchy skin condition that can affect women during pregnancy. The letters stand for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (no wonder they shortened it).
In many cases, PUPPS will develop in the third trimester of pregnancy, and the rash will clear up within 15 days of giving birth.
It usually starts as small, itchy bumps inside the stretch marks on the abdomen. The little bumps then get bigger, form large eczema-like patches, and can eventually travel down to the legs and up to the chest.
What Causes PUPPS Rash?
The cause of PUPPS rash is still not known.
One theory is that when the skin is stretched and stressed as the baby grows, the connective tissues are damaged. This causes inflammation which then develops into PUPPS rash.
Another possibility is that the rash is caused by an immune response to fetal cells from the baby that migrate to the mother's skin. This migration seems to be more likely if the baby is a boy, and the chance of developing the rash also seems to increase. (1)
Although the exact cause is still not known, the good news is that PUPPS is not life-threatening to either the mother or the baby.
However, it is extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant, so here are some natural remedies to help soothe the rash and itchiness.
Oatmeal baths have long been used to help with itchy skin conditions and rashes. Products made with colloidal oatmeal (such as lotions or body washes) have also been found to soothe conditions like atopic dermatitis. (2)
This is because oatmeal has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that come from compounds like Vitamin E and aventhramides.
Oatmeal also has compounds that can help to moisturize skin, balance pH, and reduce the rate of histamine release in mast cells. All of these can help to soothe the itchiness and irritation of PUPPS rash.
Make your own oatmeal bath:
Grind rolled oats in a blender or food processor until they are powdered. Start filling the tub with warm (not hot) water and add 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of the ground oats to the water.
(You can also put the oats in an old nylon to make cleanup easier.)
Soak for 15-20 minutes.
Calendula is an herb that has many healing benefits for skin.
All of these benefits make calendula an herb well worth trying for PUPPS rash relief.
Like oatmeal, calendula can be used in bath water to soak your skin (even added in with the oatmeal). Instead of putting the actual flowers in, you will likely want to make a strong tea using calendula and add this to your bath.
A calendula salve or cream can also be highly beneficial and soothing. It will moisturize skin while providing the healing benefits of the herb.
This Calm Cream has calendula-infused oil along with aloe vera, coconut oil, and other soothing ingredients.
Chamomile is another herb known for its calming and skin-soothing properties. Many over-the-counter anti-itch lotions and other skin products contain chamomile extract.
One study showed that chamomile gel was effective at relieving itching, burning, and pain in patients with an inflammatory skin condition. (5)
Chamomile can also be made into a strong tea and added to a warm bath or the herb placed loose in a nylon or cheesecloth and added to bath water.
Lotions and creams infused with chamomile can also help to provide relief for the itchiness of PUPPS rash.
Another remedy for PUPPS rash that women have used successfully is peppermint oil. Topical treatments containing menthol also work well at providing relief.
Menthol is the primary compound found in peppermint, and it can help to reduce itching as well as provide a mild numbing effect when applied topically.
This makes peppermint essential oil something that could be highly effective for relieving itchiness and irritation.
One study found that pregnant women experiencing itchy skin who took a preparation of peppermint oil two times a day had a significant reduction in itchiness and no side effects. (6)
Peppermint oil can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically to help with the rash. Or you can look for a topical skin treatment/cream containing menthol to reduce the itch.
Dandelion for PUPPS Rash
Dandelion is often used as a natural remedy for PUPPS rash by herbalists and other natural practitioners.
The idea is that skin problems and rashes can be caused by an overload of toxins in the body. With the body working overtime to support a growing baby, it may not be able to flush all the toxins out like normal.
Dandelion root is both a liver cleanser and a blood purifier and can greatly help with assisting the body to get rid of toxins. It can be taken as a tea or as capsules.
Dandelion tea: To make a simple dandelion tea, just steep 1-3 tsp. of the root in 1 cup of boiling water. Let it infuse for 10-15 minutes before straining and drinking.
For added benefit and to increase iron levels, an equal amount of nettle leaf can be steeped with the dandelion root. Nettle also helps the body to cleanse of toxins.
The tea can be consumed throughout the day.
There are many other remedies that can also provide relief for PUPPS rash.
Clove essential oil contains eugenol, which has numbing effects, and can provide relief for itchy skin. One study showed that clove oil applied with petroleum jelly significantly reduced symptoms of itchiness in participants. (7) However we recommend using another natural ointment instead of petroleum jelly.
Clove oil can be applied to the skin diluted by a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil.
Cold compresses or icing the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time can also provide some relief. It likely won't be as long lasting as using herbs that work to soothe skin, but it can be very effective at reliving the itch and swollen feeling.
You can also help your body from the inside out by eating foods and taking supplements that help it to cleanse and give it proper nutrients.
A gelatin supplement, in particular, can be helpful because it contains collagen, which is used by the body to strengthen and repair damaged tissues and skin.
Finally, an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl, or a chilled Sarna lotion can also be applied as needed.
All of the remedies listed are considered safe for use during pregnancy and do not usually have side effects. Allergic reactions can still occur, and treatment should be stopped if they do.
You also will want to check with your doctor or midwife before starting a new herbal regimen.
Find Relief for PUPPS Rash
Dealing with PUPPS rash can be a very frustrating experience, but these natural remedies can give you some relief.
Try an herbal infused cream, an oatmeal bath, or daily dandelion tea to help yourself through! Remember, everyone is different, so experiment until you find the remedies that work best for you.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.