My Pregnancy with Eczema - Updated

2/16/19 update: 2 years after my first pregnancy, I’ve realized I was probably going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW). Read more about it on my post about my second pregnancy. Below’s post is unedited and how I reacted to my first pregnancy at the time.

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I  gave birth to my first baby 15 months ago after a roller coaster pregnancy full of challenging eczema flare ups. True, I'm a chronic eczema fighter, but my ten plus years of eczema did not compare to the eczema I experienced during my pregnancy. 

1. My Eczema was Pregnancy-Induced

For the first few months of my pregnancy, I blamed the disruption of my eczema treatment for the severe flare ups. When I wasn't pregnant, I used acupuncture and took herbal pills to control my eczema, but I had to stop both when I became pregnant.

Months later, I changed my conclusion: my pregnancy itself was the reason for my severe eczema flare ups. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones or my body reacting to the changes in my body, but I blame my pregnancy for causing eczema. 

2. Doctors Told Me Steroids are Safe and Okay

My OB/GYN doctor told me that I could take a steroid pack to help handle my eczema. According to my doctor, this medication does not cross the placenta, so is fine.

What a relief I felt! I almost got a steroid pack, but then ...

 

3. Doctors Told Me Steroids are Dangerous and Not Okay  

All my other doctors - allergists, general physicians, even my pharmacist scared me away from taking oral steroids. They all resorted to "ask your OB/GYN," because it seemed they didn't want to be held accountable for a formal recommendation. Ultimately, I didn't take any oral steroids while I was pregnant.

4. Second Trimester: Horrible Eczema

Months four through six were the worst for my eczema, although it started in month three. By "worst," I mean the worst eczema I've ever had in my life. It was the worst few months I've ever experienced, complete with debilitating, leaking eczema all over my face and body that didn't even let me sleep for days at a time. There was edema, weeping, flaking, redness, hot, dry, full of lines. My recovery was swift, hard to believe and with no explanation. After 3 - 4 months of all-consuming eczema, my skin cleared up. Redness went away. Swelling went down. Al the lines on my face left, so I looked 20 years younger. And no more oozing. I could finally sleep. 

During the fifth month, my eczema drastically improved on its own, similar to how morning sickness goes away during the second trimester. It felt good to finally shift my attention to the little baby I was baking. 

5. Last Weeks of Pregnancy: Eczema Returns, Not as Bad

Late in my third trimester, my eczema came back, although it was not as severe.

6. Giving Birth with Eczema

My skin didn't look or feel great when I went into labor, but it at least my body and face didn't feel like a statue. My eczema didn't get in the way of my giving birth, thankfully. And my husband and I welcomed our first child!

7. Post Birth: Eczema and Medication

After being shamed by doctors to not take steroids while pregnant, I kept battling my eczema without much help. However, I went straight to the pharmacy to pick up my Prednisone pack as soon as I gave birth. Unfortunately, my pharmacist lectured me for taking oral steroids while I was breastfeeding. I have no words for that. 

After I gave birth to my daughter, my eczema stuck around. My face looked purple when I took her to baby yoga. My skin wasn't as horrible as my pregnancy's second trimester, but it was definitely not good. It has since turned around and my skin is beautiful, with only mild-to-moderate eczema due to my getting a new allergist and starting Dupixent and Protopic earlier this year.

8. Getting Pregnant Again

Today, according to my OB/GYN, I can stay on Protopic if I get pregnant again. Dupixent, however, is not safe. I took my last Dupixent injection two weeks ago. I will stay off it for about 3 months, then will start trying to get pregnant again. I'm more terrified than excited at this point and am keeping my fingers crossed that my second pregnancy produces another healthy, beautiful baby, but without the eczema torture this time. 

 

 

How to Get Rid of Dust Mites on Winter Clothing

Winter jackets, hats, sweaters and all the fuzzy accessories ... what a great season for clothing and fashion! Unfortunately, for folks with dust mite allergies, it is also a constant reminder of what we shouldn't put on our bodies for risk of a reaction. 

Dust Mites in Winter Clothes

Home furniture, flooring and decor is the big topic for dust mite allergy recommendations. No carpet, leather furniture, no curtains, dust often, etc. But nobody talks about clothing and accessories - the things that are actually worn on the body. And all the same type of rules apply: no furry stuff and nothing that gathers dust. The problem is that we can't (and shouldn't) walk around in all latex or leather. Our clothing can't be wiped down with a damp cloth. Dust mites live in our clothing, especially our winter gear like hats, jackets and sweaters that don't often get washed. We're told we should store our clothing in airtight plastic bags, but ... come on ... that's not practical. 

Eczema Reaction to Dust Mite Allergy

 
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I just bought a new heavy coat a few days ago with the fur lining (not real fur, of course) and wore it a few times. It almost immediately hurt my neck - the skin that was touching the fur. It got itchy, painful and rashy. When I showered yesterday, my neck burned like I had little needles pricking my neck. My neck didn't visibly look horrible and didn't spur a big all-body eczema flare-up (thanks to my Dupixent and Protopic eczema treatment), but it was more than uncomfortable and a clear reaction to my new coat.

My Experiment: Steam and Vacuum Winter Coat

 
 

What a bummer! It was a brand new coat and hadn't even been in my closet gathering dust. The reality, though, is that it had been in a warehouse, transported in a box and hung in a store - all perfect situations for breeding dust mites. 

In my house, I have many winter gear pieces that I don't even try to use anymore. I didn't want to put this new coat in that pile. So, I decided to try steaming the fur. Steam cleans clothing, right - it seemed to make sense! But, what about the dead dust mite bodies and fecal matter? After all, it's the dust mite poop that causes the allergy reactions. So, I grabbed my hand vacuum and vacuumed the fur. 

And I think it worked! I wore the jacket all day today and my neck didn't hurt or worsen! I'm going to try this steam-and-vacuum technique on all my dusty winter gear. 

Side notes:
1. I've tried many steamers and most are terrible. Here's one I love that is highly rated and I use often: Joy Mangano My Little Steamer

2. As for the hand vacuum, my husband recently treated himself to a Dyson V6 Animal vacuum, so I used that, but I think any hand vacuum would be fine. 

 

My 3-Month Eczema Journey with a New Allergist. I Feel Pretty Again!

January Through Early February

 
 

I started 2017 with moderate to severe eczema throughout January. In early February, six weeks ago, I spontaneously decided to get a new allergist, because I felt I was in a rut. He found a vitamin D deficiency in me, which he says is common with severe eczema patients. My doctor also had plans A, B and C for how he would treat my eczema. I was ecstatic and hopeful. 

Treatments

Vitamin D supplements: A blood test showed my vitamin D level was 23.7 ng/ml. The normal rate is 40-60 and should be even higher for eczema sufferers, according to my allergist. I was prescribed vitamin D pills of 10,000 units each and took 2 pills per week. A few weeks ago, I got tested again and my vitamin D level was 77. My allergist told me to take 1,000 units of vitamin D per day moving forward. 

Antihistamines: Before seeing my new allergist, I had been taking two Claritin Reditabs every morning for months. He recommended I increase my antihistamines and also take two Zyrtec in the evening. I don't think the brands matter, but I have a preference for Claritin Reditabs. 

Probiotics: My mother-in-law has an endocrinology degree and is a big believer in probiotics and gut health. She recommends Align to help my eczema. I asked my new allergist about this and he agreed and said it helps some people, so asked that I take Align daily. 

Steroid Pills: When I saw my allergist in early February, I begged for steroids. Within a few days of my steroid pack, my eczema began returning! So, at my two-week checkup, my allergist told me to stop my steroid pack and take 10mg of prednisone daily for ten days - the steroid amount I took before my eczema started returning during my steroid pack. He hoped my vitamin D levels would be high enough to help my body fight the eczema when the ten days were up. I finished the steroids three weeks ago.

Steroid Creams: For at least two years, I've been using Alclometasone Dipropionate Ointment (0.05%) for my face and Triamcinolone Acetonide Ointment (1%) for my body. My doctor asked me to continue using that and I have been. In my doctor appointment one week ago, he gave me Tacrolimus Ointment (Protopic, 0.1%) for my face, but I haven't had to use it yet.

Bleach Baths: My allergist recommended bleach baths in my first two appointments, but I was hesitant, so he recommended CLn body wash as an alternative. In my last appointment, one week ago, my allergist pushed harder on my doing bleach baths. I've taken three so far and they're not as bad as I expected! I was really scared to put my flared-up body in bleach water, but it's minimal bleach and doesn't hurt much more than plain water. I use a quarter cup in a bathtub of water, but it can be up to a quarter cup, depending on the bleach's concentration. 

Foods: I was vegetarian for three years until last November, because my newborn was allergic to my breast milk. I began eating meat and fish, but stopped consuming dairy and soy. I stopped breast feeding two weeks ago and added dairy and soy back to my diet at the same time. I've not gone back to vegetarianism yet.

Regarding my food allergies, I've had tons throughout the last 6 years, but the number of allergies has decreased in each new allergy test. When I was tested in February by my new allergist, my results showed zero food allergies!

My Skin Today (End of March)

My face is 95% better and my body is 50% better. My eczema is mild to moderate now versus moderate to severe. Although my body is slowly getting worse since I've been off steroids (mainly on my back and arms), it's still better than it was in January before my new treatments. I know eczema too well to think I've been cured and know there's still a tough road ahead, but I'm an optimist at heart and I've sure felt positive about my recovery so far! And others are noticing as well. The grocery store cashier carded me last week and afterwards still didn't believe I was over 21! And a coworker (female and a friend) randomly told me how beautiful she thought I was - and even on a day when my face wasn't 100%. I feel pretty again!

 
 

Skin Turning

I may not be a werewolf, but I sure feel like one when I say that my skin is turning. The good days lasted less than a week, but I sure enjoyed them while they were here. My face definitely started turning yesterday. The skin got itchier, turned red, warmed up, became thicker, then the red turned into more of a purple today and it's starting to look swollen. And it's still transforming now! The dry patches are getting dryer and the itchiness is pretty bad and it's hot to the touch. Can you tell the difference? I know I can!

My beautiful face two days ago! 

My beautiful face two days ago! 

Yesterday. Those who don't know me may think this is what I always look like, but not so! There are bags and lines under my eyes, my eyes look smaller altogether, my complexion is worse, and I just look like a bigger mess in a can't-put-your-finger-on-it way.

Yesterday. Those who don't know me may think this is what I always look like, but not so! There are bags and lines under my eyes, my eyes look smaller altogether, my complexion is worse, and I just look like a bigger mess in a can't-put-your-finger-on-it way.

And this is me today with purply red and swollen skin. Super itchy! And the transformation is still going on.

And this is me today with purply red and swollen skin. Super itchy! And the transformation is still going on.

If my doctor and pharmacist hadn't accidentally given me a 6-day steroid pack yesterday, I would be starting my steroid pill treatment right now. A 6-day pack is too fast; it needs to be a longer lasting treatment or else my eczema will bounce back harder than before. I need something for at least two weeks ... a full month ... forever! Okay, that's too long. Steroid pills are unhealthy, I know. But wouldn't it be great to have the healthy skin permanently?! Let's deal with one day at a time for now. I'll stay out of the Houston heat this weekend and will get the correct steroid pack on Monday, then I'm off for my second babymoon (this time with a best friend) in London and Scotland next weekend ... with what better be amazing skin!

Steroid Conundrum While Pregnant

The thing about chronic eczema is that it needs to be treated continuously. If you're lucky, you'll find something that works for a good amount of time. Nothing will work forever, since the body changes and adapts. For me, herbal pills seem to help.

Steroid packs help, of course, but they're not great. Once the pack is finished, the body rebounds pretty hard at times and the eczema comes right back, maybe even worse. Wouldn't it be wonderful if steroid packs had zero negative side effects and could be taken forever? The reality is that they're pretty unhealthy and I try to avoid them as much as possible. What about steroid creams? I gave those up years ago after I lathered myself with them for years. I am quite certain that I permanently damaged my skin around my eyes and mouth (two main eczema-prone spots for me) and will likely look like a 120-year-old by the time I'm 60. Thus, I am super hesitant about using steroid creams. 

Insert my pregnancy into the mix. Now I'm unable to take my herbal pills and my eczema has crept into unbearable levels. My dermatologist confirmed the mess on my face is indeed eczema and nothing else. She gave me steroid creams and told me to hold off on the steroid pack, since "it could be worse." (It could be worse! Oh, eczema.) Both steroid creams and steroid packs are category C treatments. In the pregnancy world, category C is a label used for products that have been known to hurt animal fetuses, but enough studies haven't been done to confirm the same for humans. A pregnant woman is advised to only use category C products if the benefits outweigh the risks. Well, damn. Put that way, I'm going to avoid all category C products unless absolutely necessary. I'd rather not sleep well and tear my skin out rather than hurt the growing baby inside me. My dermatologist confirmed the munchkin isn't getting hurt by my flare-up. It's all superficial and only felt by me. Except the not sleeping well, of course. 

So I will continue to hold off. If, later on, I'm so unhealthy that it's affecting my pregnancy, I'll reconsider the steroid creams and packs. Even though my OBGYN is okay with my taking the medications, I'd rather stay on the safe side. Scratch, scratch, scratch ...

 

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Pregnancy Glow? More Like Facial Eczema.

The last few months, a few things changed my life: I got pregnant (yeah!), I stopped my acupuncture and herbal pills and my eczema went down a bad path. As is often the case with eczema, I don't know if the events leading to the flareup are correlated. I've been quiet about my skin, because I had nothing positive to say. No words that would bring hope to other eczema sufferers. But things have gone pretty far and I want to be loud about it.

One of the worst periods of my life is when I went through facial eczema years ago. My eczema moved to my body and I was so grateful ... And hoped it'd never return to my face. A wish unfulfilled.

I'm now in my 19th week of pregnancy and my face has deteriorated the last few months. Bright red, itchy, scaly, peeling, significant shedding and swollen. So very swollen. Over the weekend, my eyes were so swollen when I woke up, that I could barely open them. Oh and it's still all over my body. Bloody sheets and clothes are a daily occurrence.

I'm now working from home more often and asking my close friends to come to my house instead of meeting in public places. It's jarring for strangers and coworkers to see me. "What happened to your face?!" exclaimed a stranger at Old Navy while I shopped for cheap maternity clothes a few weeks ago. She thought I'd had a chemical peel. Others have thought the same thing.

At a time when I should be focusing on the growing child inside my belly, all my thoughts are focused on my skin. Pregnancy already causes women to lose sleep. My itchiness has kept me up for weeks and has me worried that I'm not resting enough for the munchkin inside of me. 

I'm back with my acupuncturist and am about to see my dermatologist. Usually I say a dermatologist has nothing to offer me anymore, but, in case I'm dealing with more than eczema and to watch out for the growing baby inside me, I'm going to play the safe card. Maybe modern medicine can help after all ... Fingers are crossed.

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The Sprint from the Shower to the Moisturizer

Short showers with not-too-hot water is a must for eczema folks. You get in and you get out! No dillydallying. When my skin is super flared up, I shower carefully, only getting my skin wet when necessary. Water is one of an eczema sufferer's worst enemy! It burns and dries out the skin.

A shower usually shows me the first sign of an upcoming flareup - you can feel it in your skin as the water touches it. Because the water dries out the skin as you shower, as soon as you finish, it's imperative for you to moisturize and use your eczema products right away. On good days, it's not important; but on bad days, I can feel my skin dry out at a super fast rate. Within five minutes, it's uncomfortable to stretch my face and body. 

So run, my eczema peeps, from the shower to the moisturizer and get your skin in order so you can have a great day with your body!

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