Allergic to My Baby – My Pregnancy Journey with Pemphigoid Gestationis

Mother to be gets Pemphigoid gestationis

A mother-to-be who developed agonising blisters all over her skin, was shocked to discover she had a rare allergy to her own baby.

Hayley Keywood, 33, developed itchy, burning blisters all over her body when she was pregnant with her son, Harrison. 

The lifestyle blogger, from Surrey, said: “As I was coming into the third trimester, my bump was measuring smaller than it should have been. I broke out in a strange rash that had a similar appearance to hives. 

“I felt like blood was bubbling under my skin, and put on a low dose of the steroid, prednisolone, and had a brief stay in hospital.

pemphigoid gestationis pregnancy rash

Hayley’s pemphigoid gestationis rash. Image: Hayley Keywood

“They thought I had maternal chickenpox, and told me I’d need to be induced and quarantined away from the maternity ward as the virus is life-threatening to newborn babies.”

Hayley then went home and waited for her induction, but in a whirlwind of emotions and fear, went into labour naturally at 36 weeks and five days. 

Anxious to protect my unborn son

“Although I’d gone into labour naturally, my waters hadn’t broken. The neonatal team were keen for Harrison to be born in his waters, as they thought that would give him some immunity to the suspected chickenpox. 

“Unfortunately, due to having bulging waters, I couldn’t withstand the pain anymore and the midwife popped my waters. 

“Within minutes, our son came into the world. But he didn’t make a sound.

“The private suite we were quarantined in was bursting with neonatal practitioners, warming up our blue boy – and after a little oxygen we heard that reassuring cry we longed for.”

After having an initial cuddle, the family then parted ways and Harrison was taken away and given intravenous immunoglobulin to help provide antibodies that fight infection.

pregnancy autoimmune disease

Harrison soon after birth. Image: Hayley Keywood

“We watched Harrison for signs of blistering very closely. Every hour that went past without any appearing was a milestone.

“We had round-the-clock care and were still kept away from the other babies. But it soon became clear that the doctors didn’t think the problem was chickenpox after all.”

When a diagnosis changes

After being seen by a consultant skin doctor who specialises in pregnancy-related conditions, Hayley was told she might have an extremely rare condition called pemphigoid gestationis. 

“After a few days of observation and no signs of Harrison contracting any blistering or signs of the chickenpox virus, we were discharged and our case passed over to St Thomas hospital.” 

Unable to bond with my baby 

“Back at home, I fell into a state of depression, unable to leave the house and struggling to cuddle Harrison because of the effect of the pemphigoid gestationis on my skin.

“I was in excruciating pain and found it affected my ability to bond with Harrison. I couldn’t kiss and cuddle him in the same way that I did his older brother and felt really low.

“It was then two weeks later that I finally got my results through and pemphigoid gestationis was confirmed.”

After being put on a higher dose of steriods, over four weeks later, Hayley’s full-body blistering rash cleared up.

“I still have scars – both mental and physical. Nothing really prepares you for having a rare pregnancy complication – but I’ve found some great support groups that have helped pull me through the tough times. One of the mums even featured on ‘My Extraordinary Pregnancy!”

Harrison is now 11 years old and luckily, Hayley’s pemphigoid gestationis has not returned.


Harrison Keywood. Image: Hayley Keywood

To find out more about Hayley’s life with her two boys, check out her Facebook blog and Instagram.  To chat to other parents who have been through similar health journeys, don’t forget to download the Friendili app from your app store!

What is pemphigoid gestationis?

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