We welcome guest writer Sarah Howe – blogger at Run Jump Scrap – to share her personal experience of post-partum psoriasis, a troublesome and uncomfortable condition that tends to turn up when we really don’t need it!
Me and my psoriasis
Psoriasis has been part of me for most of my adult life.
I remember when I was 23 and at university, wondering what this strange dry skin on my elbows was. As it wasn’t really painful or doing anything, I didn’t go to the doctors about it for a long time, and it was only when I went about something else that I finally mentioned it.
The nice GP told me I had a mild case of psoriasis; it shouldn’t get any worse and not to worry. I believe it was triggered by a stressful period in my life: my father was unwell, I’d started a new university course and broken up with my long term boyfriend. A lot to deal with at once.
I didn’t really worry much either! I used to treat any patches of psoriasis with a steroid cream and an emollient. But as time passed I realised I was getting small patches of psoriasis in more intimate areas, on the vulva and around my bottom. These were more troublesome, as they could get quite itchy and sore. I also seemed to get more on the back of my head and this could be very irritating and itchy.
But luckily my psoriasis didn’t get much worse really, not until after I had my babies…
I’m the mother of three lovely children: two girls and a boy. One of the best things about each of my pregnancies was my psoriasis pretty much cleared up; I believe this is due to the immune system being dampened in the early stages of pregnancy. I certainly didn’t notice it starting to reappear until each of my babies were born.
Pregnancy was lovely without psoriasis, though. No itchy head, no unsightly elbows and generally being free of it. Pregnancy is hard enough, so it was great to not have psoriasis to worry about!
Things changed after each baby was born. There’s a period of time after birth when my psoriasis really flares, and in fact seems to be worse than ever. It usually appears from three months post-partum, and looks so angry and flaky on my elbows. I have to wash my hair regularly, as the sweatier or greasier my hair, the more itchy and sore my psoriasis.
It’s always in this period of time that I end up itching my head until it bleeds.
I remember having a stomach bug after my third baby and the area around my bottom was so sore, I could barely touch it or even shower. But I do feel this is always made worse due to it flaring up post-partum.
I also tend to get little patches of it appear. On my legs, stomach and even around my eye. They start as red marks. Sometimes I think they’re spots, but then they start to flake and I always know they’re actually little patches of psoriasis. Strangely, they often disappear but more appear in a new place.
Managing the symptoms
I treat it in a similar way: with a topical steroid cream and plenty of moisturiser. The patches are small and don’t really bother me too much; I often find a couple of steroid cream applications will calm things down for a while, and I don’t have to apply it daily.
I did try a coal tar shampoo after my second baby girl, as my head itching was so badly; it worked but I couldn’t tolerate it, because of the awful smell!
I always know things will calm down for me eventually. The post-partum period lasts for a few months but then things improve and I can manage it. I find it so strange to be almost completely free of psoriasis for months, and then it’s back, more severely and at a time when I really could do without it!
But I’ve always managed in the end, and for me at least, psoriasis is just part of having a baby.