For Fiona, 32, mother of a little girl and midwife, “pregnancy is known and mastered territory”. Pregnant with her second child, her first two trimesters of gestation are going wonderfully. But two months before giving birth, she begins to notice strange red, swollen spots on her belly, like “nettle stings”. “I consulted a doctor because they were becoming more and more irritating,” she explains. The dermatologist prescribes corticosteroid-based creams and is reassuring.

“The body sometimes has funny reactions at the end of pregnancy, it happens, don’t worry,” he told her. Unfortunately, the creams have no effect. On the contrary. The plaques now spread all over the body and are painful. A month before giving birth, Fiona panics and goes to the emergency room of the Basingstoke hospital where she lives, in England. There, same observation, it is recommended not to panic, especially since her baby is doing well.

Pemphigoid gestationis, this rare disease that breaks the immunological tolerance between mother and fetus

“They believed that stress was the cause of their appearance, and that they would stop after childbirth. I tried to make them understand that my anxiety, real, was the consequence of these plates, and not its cause. We were in a dialogue of the deaf.” On June 13, 2021, Fiona gives birth to little Barney, a beautiful baby in perfect health. But in the days following childbirth, the plaques become blisters.

The maternity medical team carries out further examinations and is flabbergasted. Fiona actually suffers from pemphigoid gestationis, also known as “gestational pemphigoid.” It is a rare autoimmune bullous dermatosis, affecting one in 20,000 to 50,000 pregnant women. Most often occurring in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, it causes a breakdown in immunological tolerance between mother and fetus. : the immune system mistakenly produces antibodies against itself.

Six months of corticosteroid treatment to get out of this nightmare

Healing is gradual after childbirth. Fortunately, although impressive, this disease is not dangerous for the baby. “When I was diagnosed, it was a shock. First because it’s a rare condition and it happened to me. Second, because I felt like I had been allergic to my own baby. That’s awful for a mother!”

It will take six months of an equine corticosteroid treatment administered orally and on the skin to get Fiona out of this nightmare. A recurrence in subsequent pregnancies is frequent and independent of the possible change of parent. “If I get pregnant again, chances are it will happen again. After 3-year-old Phoebe, Barney will be my last child.”


Lara T.
Lara T.

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