I found out that I was ‘allergic’ to being pregnant

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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When Jessica Williams found out she was pregnant, she thought her biggest concern would be morning sickness.

But as well as that she ended up having to overcome swine flu, blood clots in her lungs, anaemia – and becoming ‘allergic’ to pregnancy.

Jessica Williams (23), with her partner Daniel Powell (28) and their daughter Ivy Powell  Picture: Sarah Standing (161615-7661)

Jessica Williams (23), with her partner Daniel Powell (28) and their daughter Ivy Powell Picture: Sarah Standing (161615-7661)

When Jessica noticed a rash on her tummy, she was shocked to be told she had polymorphic eruption in pregnancy (PEP).

She went to hospital for a scan as usual, thinking the rash was to do with the baby being in the wrong position.

But a week later it had spread to her legs, arms and the rest of her body.

The itchy, bumpy rash, which is related to hormone changes, originates in the stretch marks of the abdomen in the last trimester of pregnancy, but clears with delivery.

I never worried that my baby would be harmed

Jessica Williams

Jessica says: ‘The rash was very painful. It was even stranger when I was in theatre giving birth and I could see the rash fade instantly.’

The 23-year-old from Waterlooville had already had to contend with a combination of morning sickness and swine flu.

At 14 weeks she felt run down and weak and was being sick 10 times a day.

She recalls: ‘I didn’t realise I had swine flu until my doctor called me at work to clarify the symptoms.

‘I couldn’t keep anything down. On top of this I had to be very careful because my job requires me to look after children.’

Jessica, who works as a nursery carer at Little Acorns Nursery School in Waterlooville, was told she had to have some time off work.

She says: ‘There was a point where I was being sick so much I burst a blood vessel in one of my eyes.’

Jessica had booked in for her flu jab with her doctor as a regular precaution, but fell ill with swine flu before the appointment.

She had to take a week off work as she was diagnosed as being contagious.

She says: ‘I didn’t worry whether my baby would be affected because she was protected by the womb.

‘But it is very rare to have so many difficulties in a pregnancy.’

Jessica’s boyfriend, Daniel Powell, 28, experienced swine flu a few years ago and was immune to being affected.

He says: ‘I was able to take care of Jessica during these difficult times without worrying about getting the flu myself.’

To add to the list, Jessica was told by her doctor that her iron count was low, which meant she was anaemic.

This deficiency of red blood cells reduces the amount of oxygen flowing through the body.

Jessica says: ‘I was told it is very common in pregnancy. Having low iron made me lack motivation to do anything.

‘To help, I was given iron supplements to inject myself with twice a day.

‘‘As well as low iron I had blood clots in my lungs and I was given another set of tablets to clear that.’

She adds: ‘It was tough, I found myself crawling up the stairs to go to bed at times.’

Because of her multiple conditions, Jessica was signed off work for an additional five weeks to rest.

She says: ‘I was more worried about not feeding my cat, Marley, than worrying about myself.

‘Whenever I didn’t feel right, I would call my doctors and receive great assistance.

The staff at the Queen Alexandra Hospital (in Cosham) were very helpful too.’

Jessica and Daniel’s daughter, Ivy Powell, was born on September 17 and weighted 8lb.

Jessica says: ‘The second I gave birth I felt amazing.

‘I was given more supplements to take for a week afterwards as a precaution.’

Her family were reassured by staff and midwives at the hospital that Jessica and her baby were going to be fine.

She explains: ‘I never worried for a second that my baby would be harmed throughout this experience. I was at ease.’

Jessica’s daughter was overdue by seven days, so she had to have an emergency caesarean.

She was in labour for 24 hours and was connected to monitors at all times.

Now fully recovered, Jessica is looking forward to parenting.

‘The day I got discharged, it was a Monday night.

‘I came back home at 5am, rested and was up at 7am, doing the washing, feeding the cat, back to my usual routine.

‘Despite all the bad things that happened to me, I got to experience really nice things throughout my pregnancy, such as the scans and buying baby clothes.

‘I had amazing support from my family and now I am really looking forward to watching Ivy grow up and do activities with her, such as painting.’

She adds: ‘My advice to girls who are experiencing difficult pregnancies is to keep going and power through, even when you don’t think you can.

‘The good definitely outweighs the bad.’

POLYMORPHIC ERUPTION IN PREGNANCY (PEP)

Polymorphic eruption in pregnancy (PEP) usually occurs during the third trimester of childbearing.

There is no real cause to this symptom. However, it is most likely to begin around the stomach area and is related to hormone changes.

Itching is the first noticeable symptom of PEP that most women experience, along with a rash. If there are visible stretch marks, the rash will begin within them which will cause instant itching.

Depending on the individual and the pregnancy, it can spread across the body (the photograph on the right shows the rash on Jessica’s leg).

It usually fades after delivery and can be treated by cream from doctors/GPs.

Women don’t have to have a history of PEP to be diagnosed with it. It tends to occur during first pregnancies.

It is very rare for women to experience the same rash in the future (fewer than seven per cent of cases).

For more, go to the British Association of Dermatologists at bad.org.uk