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Pregnancy brings all sorts of new (but expected) changes to your body — like a rapidly growing belly, backaches, morning sickness, and stretch marks. What you might not expect is a pregnancy rash on your belly, also known as PUPPP or PEP.

PUPPP can be concerning at first, but there’s no need to worry. If you’re wondering if you have this pregnancy rash, stick around. In this article, the experts at Mustela will tell you what it is, what the symptoms are, and how to treat it naturally.

What Is Pregnancy Rash (PUPPP)?

This pregnancy rash goes by a couple of different names: pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) and polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP). To keep things simple, in this article we’ll simply refer to it as PUPPP.

What causes it? While PUPPP is relatively common, it’s not entirely understood. Some think it’s an immune response to fetal antigens or an inflammatory response to tissue damage that can occur from your growing baby belly.

Others believe it could also have something to do with all of the pregnancy hormones in your body.

Pregnant woman asking her doctor about pregnancy rash

All to say, doctors aren’t completely sure why PUPPP crops up. But they do know that PUPPP more commonly happens to women who are pregnant for the first time or are pregnant with more than one baby.

Unusually enough, the rash strikes moms carrying baby boys more often than moms carrying baby girls. It usually shows up in the third trimester and goes away a week or two after giving birth.

Even though we can’t know exactly why some women suffer from this irritating rash, let’s talk about what PUPPP looks like and how to know if you’ve got it.

Symptoms of PUPPP

As if your stretch marks weren’t already enough of a bother, this pregnancy rash begins in those pesky lines. You’ll first notice tiny, itchy, pink or red bumps in your stretch marks.

In a few days, the rash might form larger red skin plaques that cover more of your body — spreading from your belly to your legs, bottom, arms, and hands but usually not past your chest. If you have fair skin, you may also notice a lighter ring around the rash.

Most of all, you won’t be able to ignore the rash because it’s also incredibly itchy.

Pregnant woman with symptoms of pregnancy rash

That said, if you have a red, itchy rash, it may not be PUPPP. You could also have a different, more concerning skin condition known as pemphigoid gestationis (PG). See your doctor to determine the cause of your rash.

You might have read this far and realized that you don’t have PUPPP; you just have bothersome, itchy stretch marks. If that’s you, Mustela can help!

Try our Soothing Moisturizing Balm to give you some relief and all-over skin hydration. Plus, after your little one comes, apply Mustela’s Stretch Marks Recovery Serum to help minimize the appearance of recently formed stretch marks.

Now, back to PUPPP pregnancy rash.

Let’s say that all of the symptoms line up, you’ve gone to the doctor to rule out other conditions, and you do have PUPPP. What should you do? Your biggest concern will be treating the main symptom: the itching!

How To Treat PUPPP

Before we tell you how to treat PUPPP, rest reassured that, while it can be a frustrating and incredibly itchy condition, it’s harmless to you and your baby.

The bad news is that there is no definitive treatment for PUPPP. The “cure” is having your baby, as the rash goes away by itself a week or two after delivery. But the good news is that there are several ways you can treat PUPPP to calm your skin and relieve the itching!

While you’re anxiously awaiting your little one, treat this pregnancy rash by controlling the symptoms. To do so, your doctor may advise you to apply a topical steroid or corticosteroid cream or take an oral antihistamine.

Fortunately, there are a few other treatments you can try if you want a more natural way to address the itch. Here are 11 ways to treat PUPPP naturally.

11 Ways To Treat PUPPP Naturally

1) Don’t Scratch

As with most itchy, red maladies, you need to try to avoid scratching! As hard as it can be, you’ll only make your situation worse if you constantly scratch the rash.

Do what you can to keep your hands off your skin. Try keeping a mug of tea in your hands and something soothing on your belly.

2) Apply Cold

To get some relief, try putting something cool on your rash. Apply an ice pack for 15 or 20 minutes or lay a cool, wet towel over the rash. If you’re using ice packs, keep two in the freezer so you can always have a cold one ready to go.

3) Sip On Tea

Expecting mother holding mug of tea

For an inside-out PUPPP treatment, make a cup of dandelion root or nettle leaf tea. Both of these teas are known to help bring relief to women dealing with this annoying pregnancy rash.

Also, take a moment to relax and get your mind off the itching while the tea gets to work.

4) Drink Veggie Juice

Help your body detox (and give your growing baby lots of great nutrients!) by drinking vegetable juice a couple of times each day. Make your own with the vegetables and fruits you like or buy a premade veggie juice to keep things simple and easy

5) Take A Bath

Pregnant woman taking a bath to relieve PUPPP symptoms

When you’re itchy, you’ll want to avoid hot water, which will only inflame the rash. Instead, opt for a warm oatmeal or baking soda bath to help reduce inflammation.

To take a baking soda bath, simply spoon anywhere from ¼ to 2 cups of baking soda straight into the bathwater. Give it a swirl and enjoy your bath.

For an oatmeal bath, grind oats into a powder using a blender. Put this powder straight into the tub. Or you can put one or two cups of whole, uncooked oats in a fabric bag (a piece of fabric or pantyhose would do the trick!) and let the bag soak in the tub.

6) Use Pine Tar Soap

As odd as it may sound, some women find relief from PUPPP by washing with pine tar soap while they’re in the shower. Lather up!

7) Pat Dry

When you get out of your bath or shower, hopefully you’ll feel relaxed and itch a little less. Just make sure you don’t irritate your skin all over again when you dry off! Instead of rubbing dry, gently pat yourself dry with a towel.

8) Dress In Light Clothing

When you get dressed, think carefully about the fabric you’re putting on your skin. Avoid rough, scratchy, or tight clothing that could irritate your pregnancy rash. Choose light, cotton clothing to help manage the itch all day long.

9) Apply Mustela’s Soothing Moisturizing Balm

Keep your skin hydrated and the itching at bay with a great moisturizer. Made specifically for expecting and new moms, Mustela’s Soothing Moisturizing Balm soothes and moisturizes your skin.

Use it on your pregnancy rash as well as anywhere else you need a hydration boost. It’s also hypoallergenic and safe to use down the road when you’re breastfeeding!

10) Dab Aloe Vera Gel Onto The Rash

Get relief straight from a plant! Apply the gel from an aloe vera leaf to your rash for another way to naturally cool and soothe PUPPP.

11) Avoid Chemicals

No matter what works for you to treat PUPPP symptoms, avoid products with harsh chemicals that could irritate your rash and inflame the itch.

Once your little one arrives, you’ll also want to avoid using harsh chemicals on their sensitive skin. If you want to outfit your home and nursery with skincare products that will be gentle on both of you, look no further.

Grab a Sensitive Skin Bathtime Set for your bathroom, Diaper Rash Cream 1 2 3 or Diaper Rash Sprayable Cream for your changing table, and Cicastela Moisture Recovery Cream for your diaper bag. Keep baby’s skin soft and healthy wherever they go.

Control The Itch And Wait For Baby

While PUPPP can be unsightly and extremely bothersome, keep in mind that it’s not dangerous and it will go away after your baby arrives! Until then, take care of the itching — try sipping tea or vegetable juice, applying cold compresses, and everything in-between to figure out what works best for you.

And last but not least, keep Mustela’s Soothing Moisturizing Balm on hand to use while you’re battling PUPPP as well as after delivery day. Your skin will thank you for it!