A Psoriasis Flare May Have Caused My Miscarriage
When I found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic. There was nothing I wanted more in the world than to expand my family.
I am fortunate enough to have two children, and I couldn’t wait to welcome a third.
Weeks prior to finding out I was pregnant, my 3-year-old and I both woke up feeling under the weather. Quickly assessing the situation, she was much worse off than me, so I took care of her. Strep throat. It happens. I totally ignored the fact that I didn’t feel well. I was in typical mom mode.
Fast forward a couple weeks later and I experienced the worst flare up of psoriasis in the 25 years that I’ve had it. It was so bad I wasn’t even sure it was psoriasis. An emergency dermatologist appointment confirmed it was a kind of psoriasis I’d never had before: guttate — which literally translates to eruptive. And that it had; all over my body.
For those unfamiliar with psoriasis, it is an autoimmune disease in which the skin cells multiply at rapid speeds, creating plaque like scales that can be extremely itchy, and very unsightly.
Curiously, the dermatologist also asked if I had been sick recently and then asked specifically about strep. I told her my daughter had it a few weeks prior, and she informed me I needed to get a culture. She was pretty positive that I had untreated strep, which is a trigger for this unpleasant and itchy as all hell eruptive psoriasis I was experiencing.
Sure enough, the test confirmed I had strep and I took the appropriate antibiotics to get rid of it and kept moving on.
When I found out I was pregnant, never once did I think of my psoriasis as playing any kind of negative role. Quite the opposite. So much so that I used my psoriasis as a gateway to share my pregnancy with my dad. When he asked, “How’s your psoriasis?” I responded with, “It’s terrible and so itchy, but now that I am pregnant it should clear up right away!” To say he was shocked was an understatement, but I digress, the point is that mild psoriasis and pregnancy had always been a huge win for me. Clearest skin of my life. What timing! How fortunate, or so I thought.
At eight weeks pregnant, my husband and I went in to our first doctor appointment. We were cautiously excited, thinking how great it would be to hear the thumping of our baby’s growing heartbeat. Unfortunately, there was no heartbeat, but the baby was also measuring smaller and our doctor gave us a 50 percent chance of having a viable pregnancy. Handing me what would be the sole ultrasound photo for this pregnancy, he asked us to return in a week and a half, which was the slowest 10 days of my life. On Halloween, we found out that it was a miscarriage. I was devastated. I still am.
Fast forward to the day of my D&C at 10 weeks and two days pregnant. My husband and I were talking to my doctor about why I could have miscarried, and he very carefully said something that shook me to my core: “Sometimes it can happen when women have autoimmune diseases that are extremely active and the body is working so hard to ward off enemies. Your pregnancy was 50 percent yours, which your body obviously recognized, but 50 percent was your husband’s, which your body could have perceived as a threat.”
In other words, because of my eruptive psoriasis, there’s a chance my body actively worked to kill my baby. I was floored. The devastation I had already been experiencing multiplied as new emotions like guilt and blame and anger also kicked in. Why hadn’t I gone to the doctor when I didn’t feel well? Why do I have to have an autoimmune disease like psoriasis that has already caused me so much physical and emotional discomfort, now swoop in to potentially kill my unborn baby? Why did I initially feel happy that I got pregnant during my biggest psoriasis outbreak? The thoughts go on and on.
I know there are many reasons for miscarriages and some consider miscarriages to be “nature’s way,” and maybe I just wasn’t meant to have this baby. Still, I’ll always wonder if the undetected strep caused the eruptive psoriasis which in turn caused my miscarriage.
In the meantime, no more “typical mom” behavior from me. I vow to pay attention to my body when I don’t feel well, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. I am treating my psoriasis through phototherapy, and while it still covers a lot of my body — four months since the initial outbreak — it is much improved. My husband and I hope we will be fortunate enough to be granted baby number three in our near future. Until then, all I can do is take care of myself and my family, and embrace all of the good that I have in my life.
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Getty image by Grandfailure