Yes, that's a lovely topic isn't it?
And yes, I've been really quiet on here lately. I'm trying to soak in every moment with my boys - and get back to work, too - and that's not leaving me loads of time to blog. But, I write a blog post at least once a day in my head. I just need to make it to the keyboard from time to time.
Anyways, postpartum hives is what I choose to write about after such a long break. Glorious, eh? But, I think it should be written.
For those that follow me on Facebook, or were blessed enough to see these hives in person, you know that I had a random hives occurence when Elias was about five weeks old. These things were disgusting. And when I say hives I mean huge welts that covered giant portions of my torso. There are photos, but I don't want to see them again myself, so I'm sure you don't want to check them out.
It all started with purchasing some of that famous Palmers cocoa butter lotion for stretch marks. I had had some previous stretch marks itching on my belly and thought that now was the time to soothe and get those bad boys fading. I applied the lotion and went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night itching like mad. I immediately thought of the lotion, ran downstairs and took a cold shower around 3 a.m. I thought I had an allergic reaction. Anywhere I scratched, red marks were appearing with bumps inside of the scratch marks. And these strange mosquito-looking bites were appearing and fading. The shower, plus some Benadryl calmed me down.
The next day, no sign of them. I told my friends what a horrible incident it was and I swore to never touch the Palmer's again. That night, at bedtime, the bumps were back. And worse. They were everywhere. And they kept popping up across my chest, where my bra straps were, pants waistband, anywhere that fabric was touching me with pressure. I was miserable. I took more Benadryl and tried to calm down.
The next day I called my OBGYN first thing and got an appointment. I thought maybe I had developed that PUPPS rash postpartum (which a quick Google search confirmed does happen). I was so sad thinking that this rash could be around for who knows how long. And that some people had to quit nursing to see improvement. I didn't want to do that. And in true Kira fashion, I was flipping out.
During the appointment my skin flared up more. Each of my breasts was a giant hive. They went around my back like giant burn marks almost. The OBGYN said she'd never seen anything like that, it wasn't PUPPS and recommended I see a dermatologist. Mine just happened to be in the same building, so I walked right up there and begged for an immediate appointment. I must have looked desperate (and gross), so they worked me in. The derm took one look at me and said, "Those are hives."
He proceeded to explain that hives are very common in the postpartum period (excuse me, what?). He said that he doubted it was based on an allergy. He didn't think it was related to the lotion I mentioned. And that it would just take some time to go away. He prescribed a regimen of Allegra and Tagamet (usually for heartburn, it is used to boost antihistamines) every 12 hours. I started the meds, saw a tiny bit of improvement and hit up Whole Foods for anything oatmeal and soothing in their bath department.
I was a wreck. I cried and cried. Google made it seem like this happen to lots of women, and they associated it with postpartum hormones and breastfeeding. A quick call to my doula resources made that breastfeeding thing seem ridiculous, which helped to somewhat calm me. Still, there were loads of other women out there that had these hives. Some even noted that it began after using Palmers (but most women use Palmers at some point or another, right?).
The more I freaked out, the more the hives came. That night, they spread like wildfire. They were up and down my legs, around my chest and waist, up and down my arms. (Holy crap I'm itching just typing this.) In a panic, I called my dermatologist. He leaves his cell number on his office phone for emergencies and this felt like one to me. Despite all the meds, I was exploding in GIANT hives.
He calmly said that this is normal. That again, these things happen. He sees it often. To take the meds every 8 hours if that's what it took to keep the hives away. He assured me this was compatible with nursing and told me to get some rest. That night, I took the Allegra, Tagamet and Benadryl more often. (The pediatrician, pharmacist, dermatologist and OBGYN all ok'ed these drugs, by the way.)
The 8-hour cycle seemed to keep the hives at bay. I was scared about my milk supply and began pumping after day time feedings to up my supply gradually. (Looking back, I don't think my supply was affected. I actually ended up with lots of milk from all that pumping.) So, I went to bed that night hopeful that the hives would stay away. Night time was their worst time. And that night, my face joined the mix. My lips were huge. My eyelids almost swelled shut. There were hives along my chin and forehead - in addition to the rest of my body. I came downstairs in tears and showed Rusty. He was a little in shock at that point. I think we both thought the worst was over. Again, I called my dermatologist. He kind of irritated me with his tone. I explained, crying, that I was a new mom, I was hormonal and terrified that I was going to stop breathing or something. These hives were taking over my face at this point. He assured me that this was again, normal. I took Benadryl, held Rusty's hand and finally fell asleep. I had to wake up in the middle of the night and put my hands in a bowl of ice water, they were so swollen with hives. And on fire.
The next day the derm called me to see how I was. I said the hives were going away again. He said to stay on the meds for two weeks and try to come off them and see what happens. If the hives came back, to repeat for another two weeks. I cried and flipped out. I was going to have to deal with this for weeks? I called my regular practice doctor who agreed that I should take the meds more often and even suggested something stronger. I also went to my psychiatrist because upping my Zoloft amount happened around the same time, so we thought maybe it was freak side effect? Not likely, but we switched my meds to Lexapro just in case.
I talked to a friend who is a nurse. She told me that I needed to pray about it. She assured me that this was all normal hives behavior. It was unlikely I was reacting to something and would have some kind of breathing troubles at this point. I knew I needed to get a grip and give this to God. I just was having a hard time doing so. I talked to another friend who deals with hives from time to time. She told me that stress aggravates them. That I needed to calm down, keep cool (literally and figureatively) and get ahead of these things. Another friend sent me some Bible verses that spoke to my heart. I prayed them and tried to calm my spirit. My mom and I decided I needed to read a book or something at night when I was nursing. Clearly, without the distraction I was stressing too much. It must have all worked because that night, no hives. Praise the Lord!
From that point on, no more hives. I weaned myself off the meds a week or so later and so far so good. The only thing I can think of is that during that time I changed fabric softener sheets. Maybe that was related? Or maybe, as the dermatologist said, these things can just happen postpartum. I've since heard of others with similar cases. It kind of blows my mind to think about the power of our hormones and all that's going on in my body after having a baby.
So, I'm writing this all here thinking that maybe another panicked mom will be Googling one night, covered in hives, and freaking out. To that mom, I say this: take the meds, take them more often than it says if you need to, try to stay calm and they will go away. It totally, totally, totally sucks. I know. Damn it sucked. I'm so thankful they have passed. Let's just hope they stay away!
Now that I'm itching all over.... eek.... I'm now banning the word 'hives' from my blog.
**Note from February 2013: If you're reading this and you're suffering from postpartum hives and you need someone to pray for you or offer words of encouragement - please email me (email address over to the right over there). Or leave your email address in a comment. We can be a support system for each other. It's truly, truly a horrific experience during one of the most beautiful phases of you life. I'd love to help however I can.**