Laura – a pub supervisor from Norfolk, UK, was diagnosed with the rare pre-natal condition polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP) at 20 weeks.
‘I had a very difficult pregnancy and doctors have told me there is a 50 per cent chance of it happening again.
‘But, if it means giving Flynn a little brother or sister, I will happily endure it.’
Having a baby was a struggle from the outset for Laura and her IT worker husband Jack, 28.
Suffering with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – where hormonal imbalances cause ovarian cysts, making conception difficult – Laura was having fertility treatment, taking Clomid tablets, when she discovered she was pregnant at the end of 2015.
Overjoyed, the couple could not wait to see the 12 week scan, only for Laura to experience a wave of dizziness and collapse backwards on to the bed at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in Norwich.
When she came to, doctors explained that her blood pressure had plummeted, which was probably caused by stress.
‘They said if I feel dizzy again, I need to lie down, no matter where I was, to protect the baby,’ she explains.
‘So, in the following weeks, I found myself suddenly needing to lie down in the fruit and veg aisle in the supermarket, as a weak feeling came over me. It was embarrassing, but I wanted to look after my baby.’
Then, at 20 weeks, she woke to find an unrelated angry red rash coating her thighs, chest and baby bump.
‘I asked Jack what he thought it was and he looked baffled – suggesting that, maybe, it was a heat rash,’ she explains.
‘It was so painful, though, I knew it was more than that. I couldn’t get comfortable at night and all I wanted to do was scratch and scratch until it was red raw and began to bleed. It felt like I was burning up. And the bigger I got, the worse it became.’
At her next hospital appointment, when she was 22 weeks in, Laura showed her doctor the rash and was told it was polymorphic eruption of pregnancy – the cause of which is uncertain, although dermatologists believe it may be caused by the stretched skin on the abdomen and hormonal changes.
Seen more often in multiple pregnancies, Laura said of her diagnosis: ‘I’d never heard of it before, but the doctor said it was a chronic hive-like rash, which meant my body was fighting the pregnancy, as if I was allergic to my baby.
‘I was reassured that the condition wasn’t harmful to the baby, but I was stuck with it until after the birth.’
Despite trying her hardest to tolerate the rash, Laura said it made the final months of her pregnancy ‘almost unbearable.’
‘I was honestly counting down the weeks until I went into labour. I was so desperate, I begged to be induced early, but I was refused.’
Finally, seven days after Laura’s due date, baby Flynn was born on August 31, 2016, at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, by caesarean because of the size of the baby and how overdue she was, weighing 4kg.
She recalls: ‘He was the most beautiful little boy. I was relieved he had arrived safely and was finally out of me, as well as praying that my rash-hell would be over.
‘But despite it disappearing for a few days, it returned with a vengeance, and even holding Flynn for a cuddle or breast-feeding him was unbearable.
‘I was told it came back because my hormones were all over the place after the birth.’
Trying everything from chamomile cream, to antihistamines, after long and painful first month of motherhood, the rash finally disappeared, and Laura was able to enjoy being a mum.
‘I cuddled Flynn and made up for all the time we’d lost,’ she said. ‘Now I am prepared to go through all of this again to give him a brother or a sister.
‘We are in the process of being referred again for fertility. Doctors said there is a real chance I will get the rash again, but it’s a risk I am willing to take.'