The mother ALLERGIC to her own baby: Pregnancy left woman, 24, covered in agonising blisters after developing rare disorder
Zuleika developed a burning, itchy rash when she was 20 weeks pregnantShe was wrongly diagnosed with scabies and prescribed an insecticideIt wasn't until she gave birth that a locum doctor realised she had an auto-immune pregnancy disorder
17:09 GMT, 13 December 2012
A young mother-to-be who developed agonising blisters all over her body was shocked to discover she had a rare allergy to her own baby.
Zuleika Closs, 26, developed a burning, itchy rash all over her body when she was 20 weeks pregnant with her son Emmanuel.
The mother, from Falmouth, Cornwall, said: 'At first, it felt like something was crawling on my skin but then it became unbearable. The blisters looked like nettle rash at first but spread really fast and became dark and red.
'My feet were the worst. I scratched so hard that large chunks of skin kept falling off. It was peeling off like orange peel.'
On the mend: Zuleika Cross with son Emmanuel. She said the red blisters were unbearably itchy during her pregnancy (right)
Doctors thought that Ms Closs was suffering from scabies and told her to boil all her clothes
After antibiotics and calamine lotion didn't help to ease the itch, doctors wrongly diagnosed her with a severe case of scabies and gave her insecticide to use. She was also told to boil wash all her clothes and put her shoes in the freezer, but to no avail.
'I was so itchy, I was scratching myself in my sleep. I was exhausted and couldn't cope.
'I remember standing in the doctors waiting room in floods of tears wishing someone would help me.
I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall because nothing was working.
'I think they thought I was a hormonal pregnant woman but it really was that bad.'
Her partner Nathan Darbyshire, 23, a
care worker, lost shifts at work because he didn't want to pass the
scabies on to colleagues and patients.
At 38 weeks, Ms Closs went into labour
but says she was scared to hold her baby because she thought she might
pass the rash onto him.
She said: 'Skin to skin contact is really important with newborns but I didn't want him to catch it. I blamed myself and thought it was something I'd done.'
After Emmanuel was born, the rash died down but then days later it flared up again.
Zuleika said: 'I sometimes have flash backs to the pregnancy but I only have to look at Emmanuel (pictured at two-days-old) to know all the pain is worth it'
Happy family: Zuleika with partner Nathan Darbyshire and son Emmanuel. Nathan turned down work during her pregnancy through fear he could catch and pass on on scabies after Zuleika was wrongly diagnosed
Ms Closs's blister marks are now fading (right) but she will still be scarred for life. She wants to find a wedding dress that will cover her reaction
This time, she saw a locum doctor who
said he believed an auto-immune pregnancy disorder was to blame and put
her on a strong dose of anti-histamines.
She said: 'I couldn't believe what he was telling. I was allergic to my pregnancy. It just sounded bizarre.
Zuleika said she was considering having more children as she would like to have a sibling for Emmanuel
'It was a relief because sometimes I felt the doctors thought I must be doing something to my skin.'
Four months on, the rash is now fading but she will be scarred for life.
Ms Closs is thought to have Pemphigoid gestationis, which is caused by placenta tissue entering the mother's blood stream and reacting with her immune system.
The condition is in remission but she has been left with dark scars because of the extensive blistering.
Pemphigoid gestationis is believed to affect one in two million pregnancies worldwide and is likely to be more severe in future pregnancies.
Zuleika said: 'We're getting married in May but I'll have to find a dress that will cover my scars.
Thinking about having another baby in the future terrifies me.
'My body is already in a mess but I'd love Emmanuel to have brothers and sisters to grow up with.
'I sometimes have flash backs to the pregnancy but I only have to look at Emmanuel to know all the pain is worth it.
'I also couldn't have done it without Nathan and my mum. They were fantastic.'
RARE PREGNANCY DISORDER THAT CAN LAST FOR YEARS AFTER BIRTH
According to Nina Goad, of the British Association
'Pemphigoid gestationis is a rare disorder
that occurs in pregnant women after 13 weeks gestation.
It appears with an itchy rash that
develops into blisters. This means that the mother's immune system
starts reacting against her own skin causing it to split and form
We think that some of the placenta
tissue enters the mother's blood stream and causes her immune system to
become activated and cross react with her skin, causing the blisters.
Female hormones, particularly oestrogen, are thought to aggravate the
This may be why it often occurs during pregnancy, when oestrogen levels rise. It usually recurs in subsequent pregnancies.
Unfortunately PG can't be cured, but it can be suppressed with treatment.
Symptoms often improve towards the end of pregnancy but 80% of women
will experience a flare of the rash around the time of delivery.
In most cases symptoms resolve days or weeks after giving birth, but in
some women the disease can remain active for months or years and may
require continued treatment.'