When most of us notice a skin rash in general, we panic. Many causes of rashes are serious and the itchy red patches are often only the beginning in a slew of upcoming symptoms. It is even easier to panic if you notice a skin rash during your pregnancy. You might immediately assume that something is seriously wrong or that you’re having an allergic reaction that could be fatal to you and your baby. While there are certainly some serious causes of skin rashes during your pregnancy, there are also many reasons a benign rash could pop up. You should seek out medical attention either way, but if you’re lucky, your doctor will tell you that you have a condition called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPP).

While a condition with such a long name sounds like it must be serious, PUPP is actually harmless. It is an itchy rash that might develop in the abdominal area, but you might not notice it until it has spread elsewhere. Women with PUPP most commonly have red, patchy skin that surrounds their lower abdomen and upper thighs. If this is what you see in the mirror, it is highly likely that you have PUPP, but it’s always a good idea to get it checked out to be sure.

Luckily, PUPP will not harm your baby. Doctor’s are not entirely sure what causes the rash, but some theories suggest that it is genetic and is passed down through the father’s genes. Even if you do have PUPP during your pregnancy, it won’t show up until the third trimester, so your gestation will be otherwise normal. The rash will also disappear a few hours after you’ve given birth, so it is one of the shortest-lived pregnancy conditions you can be afflicted with.

You can treat PUPP as you would treat any other type of itchy rash during your pregnancy. Steer clear of medicated creams unless approved by your doctor, but oatmeal baths, aloe gel, and calamine lotions are safe to use. Be careful not to scratch too much, because any open lesions could become infected, and your benign rash could quickly become a serious problem. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can treat PUPP, but one in 150 women get it, so your odds could be worse. If your rash is accompanied by any other symptoms, make sure you call your doctor immediately.

Source: JK Seo et al: Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy: Clinical Experience with 22 Patients. Korean Journal of Dermatology Volume 47 Issue 9 pp. 997-1003 September 2009