I know what you’re thinking. Because I had these thoughts too, you made this incredible baby, a blessing, and here you are feeling whale-like and gross.
The human body is a truly disgusting miracle.
Remember my story about everyone waiting for me to fart after my c-section? Yeah.
But there’s more stuff potentially in store for you too. Among those things is an itchy rash after c-section. It doesn’t happen to everyone. It did not happen to me. I did have a few friends who were happy to tell me about their experiences, so I’m going to cover all the skin rash after c-section.
Itchy Rash After C-Section…Is it PUPPP?
I first want to warn you about a prequel to the after c-section rash known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy rash, which is a mouthful and likely why everyone just calls it the PUPPP rash.
This annoying ailment happened to my friends Kim and Donna. The cause isn’t very clear but stretched skin seems to be what sets it off. According to the Healthline, it happens in roughly 1 out of every 150 pregnancies.
So you might be inclined to think this is related, especially if you have an itchy rash after your c-section. But PUPPP is different. It usually shows up in your third trimester, and will usually only happen during the first pregnancy you ever have.
PUPPP rash appears on the stomach during your pregnancy because your skin stretches there so much. It will start there and spread everywhere with what Kim colorfully called it, “The ugliest pink zits all over my butt, thighs, arms, legs, and abs that made me sure it was payback from calling that geeky guy in chemistry class ‘pizza face.'” 😛
Not only is it ugly, but it’s also quite itchy. Donna told me that she couldn’t sleep at night toward the end of her pregnancy. “I felt like that one time I fell off my bike on the trails right into poison oak. I couldn’t stop itching. It was just horrible.”
I want to say that you are in the clear after giving birth, but that’s not always the case. Donna was happy to put me in touch with her sister-in-law, Janet, who broke out with a PUPPP rash postpartum on her first pregnancy.
This is extremely rare for PUPPP to develop after you’ve delivered. Usually, it will occur in that third trimester and then clear up shortly after giving birth, within a couple of weeks. Janet emailed me about her experience.
“I had no troubles beyond the usual gripes moms complain about when I was pregnant with Jackson. But soon after coming home from the hospital, I had this horrible skin rash after my c-section. The rash was on my buttocks after the c-section too. I didn’t know until my husband said something. I just was itchy all over it felt like. We went to the doctor and she thought it was a reaction from the meds, but it wasn’t. It was apparently PUPPP, and I was one of the lucky rare cases ever to get it postpartum. Lucky me!”
Poor Janet. 🙁
But the good news is that it is really rare. What IS more likely is that you’ll get a c-section rash around the incision. But that is much more easily explained and more common than PUPPP.
Other Reasons You Have a Skin Rash After C-Section
There are a few other more common reasons you could be itching in your skin after that c-section. Cellulitis is one of them, contact dermatitis caused by those surgical staples is another, and my friend Jessi had a nasty allergic reaction from the narcotics to quell her pain.
Generally, it is likely one of these causes rather than PUPPP rash, but regardless of what you think it might be, you should contact your doctor at once. It’s very common to have an allergy to morphine. If you’re in pain and need meds, your doctor can easily switch you to something less reactive, and you should see the rash disappear.
Then there’s cellulitis. It’s a skin infection caused by streptococcus and will usually only impact the area of your incision site. Because contact dermatitis will look similar, you’ll need your doctor to check you out.
Cellulitis is hard to figure out because the area will be tender and sore from the c-section anyway. But your doctor will notice other vital things that will help with a diagnosis. Generally, if you feel significant pain that gets worse, your skin feels warm to the touch in that incision area, or you have a fever and chills, these are all signs something is wrong, and you need medical attention.
On the other hand,
Narcotics have a different reaction. You’ll have a rash while you feel itchy from head to toe. Should you feel dizzy, like you can’t catch your breath, or your face starts swelling, you need emergency medical treatment.
What to Do About Your Itchy Rash After C-Section
First, you should be sure it’s a PUPPP rash. If you feel itchy, but you see no rash, there’s a perfect chance your skin is just really dried out from your hormones. You can slather on more lotion to help, but it will get better as your hormones balance. Drink water too to counter it from the inside.
If you had your PUPPP rash come on while you were pregnant, it should be gone after giving birth within a few days. For a small number of women, it can take 2 to 4 weeks after delivery to get rid of the rash. The good news is it won’t scar.
Before or after pregnancy, if you get a rash that irritates you, contact your doctor. You might be referred to a dermatologist and could be given something like Benadryl, topical corticosteroids to stop the itching, and skin emollients to hydrate it. These are usually safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, but your doctor will have the best advice.
In general, a rash after your c-section isn’t usually a big deal. Keep an eye on your incision and make sure you’re cleaning it right to prevent any infections too!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.