My Eczema Was Under Control Until I Got Pregnant and It Turned Into a Staph Infection

When you get pregnant, your body goes through massive changes. Some of the changes are temporary and others are there to stay. As your body rearranges your hormones, you're likely to notice changes from your hair to your feet and all of the skin in between. You may see skin conditions—like eczema—worsen during these nine months too.

What Is Eczema

The term eczema covers a group of chronic skin rashes with a broad range of symptoms. Typically people with eczema will have red, dry, and itchy patches of skin that come and go in events called flare-ups. In some cases, these patches may become inflamed to the point they form blisters and leak a clear fluid. Over the long-term patches can thicken.

Types of eczema include:

  • Atopic dermatitis—the most common form
  • Dyshidrotic eczema—develops blisters under the skin of the palms, soles, and side of fingers
  • Nummular or discoid eczema—forms tiny pimples and is more common in males

One Story of Pregnancy Changes

People say that pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time. Well, I’m pretty sure those people don't have eczema. For me—a woman with a severe case of this skin condition, which causes itchy, red rashes on the skin—those nine months were the most miserable days of my life.

Up until I got pregnant at age 17, my eczema was manageable. I was diagnosed when I was four years old and used the same topical steroid for years. Whenever I had a flare, I put on the cream and my skin would calm down. When I was eight, I moved to Tampa, Florida, and, despite the occasional rash, I still wore shorts and tank tops. Besides, the air felt good on my skin. But by the time I entered middle school, things started to get worse. The patches were spreading—to my wrists, the back of my legs, and eventually to my face. Then I got pregnant, and my skin just went crazy.

The Worst Months

I was two months pregnant when the left side of my face started to itch uncontrollably. I felt it before I went to bed one night, and by the next morning, my skin was so inflamed that my mom had to take me to the hospital. As the weeks went on, my skin got worse. I scratched the sores on my head so much so that my hair was falling out in patches, and my legs were raw from clawing at the skin.

As my due date neared, my mom took me to the hospital because she suspected that something was seriously wrong with me. Walking was too painful, and my legs were oozing so much that I had to keep them wrapped in bed sheets. When I was wheeled into the hospital in a wheelchair, the doctors looked at me and basically shrugged.

They didn’t want to admit me because they didn’t think there wasn’t anything wrong. Luckily, my mom stood her ground, and someone took my blood pressure. That’s when I found out that I had preeclampsia, or very high blood pressure (which can lead to premature birth).

The Hospital Stay

While monitoring my blood pressure, the doctors took culture swabs of my legs. Two days later, the results came back: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a serious, sometimes life-threatening infection caused by a type of Staph bacteria. Before I knew it, I was being whisked away to a room at the end of the hall—an isolation room, where they told me I was going to be quarantined.

When my mom arrived back at the hospital, the doctors told her that she’d need to wear a gown and gloves if she wanted to see me. She refused. She said I lived with her while she had this infection. I’m not talking to my daughter like that.

Two days after that, my labor was induced. The doctors moved me to a delivery room and gave me an epidural. I was only in labor for about three hours before giving birth to a healthy baby boy who weighed about 6.8 pounds. He’s ten years old now—and thankfully, he doesn't have eczema.

The Aftermath

I was discharged a day and a half later, but I was still in a lot of pain, especially in my legs. Everything hurt. It even hurt to wash my son’s bottle. I eventually had to go to a different hospital to get a prednisone shot—a steroid that suppresses the immune system. That was the first time in two months that my legs stopped hurting.

It was another three years before I found a good dermatologist. He did everything he could for me, even saw me on days when he had a full schedule. Now, I don’t itch as much, and I’m not in so much pain. My skin is regaining some color, and my eyebrows and eyelashes are starting to grow back. In the past, I’d rubbed them off with scratching. For the first time in years, I feel as if I’ve finally found help.

—Jillian M., 27, from Tampa, Florida, as told to Maria Masters

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