Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy Symptoms

By Ashley | January 19, 2010
Obstetric Cholestasis Symptoms

Some pregnant women experience severe itching in the later stages of their pregnancy. When this happens, the common cause is generally cholestasis, a liver disease that can only affect pregnant women. In this condition high levels of pregnancy hormones affect the usual flow of the bile in the gallbladder. Cholestasis generally strikes in the last trimester, when a woman’s hormones are at their peak. After the delivery, the cholestasis goes away. This health condition can be extrahepatic cholestasis that happens outside the liver, or intrahepatic cholestasis that happens inside the liver. It can also be called obstetric cholestasis.

Causes for Cholestasis During Pregnancy

The normal function of the gallbladder gets affected because of the pregnancy hormones, which leads to a stopping or slowing of the bile flow. The bile in the gallbladder is produced by the liver and this is important for the breaking down of fats in the digestive process. If the flow of bile slows down or stops, then the accumulation of bile acids in the liver can get into the bloodstream.

Symptoms of Cholestasis During Pregnancy

Some of the signs to look out for are –

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Light colored stools
  • Dark urine
  • Severe itching on the feet and hands (this is one of the main signs)

Some of the other symptoms include:

  • Yellow eyes, skin and mucous membranes
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the upper-right quadrant

Risk in Cholestasis During Pregnancy

It is believed that one to two pregnancies out of every thousand suffer from cholestasis. Also, women who are carrying multiple babies and whose sisters or mother had cholestasis are at a greater risk.

Diagnosis for Cholestasis During Pregnancy

Cholestasis can be diagnosed by doing a physical examination, a complete medical history, and blood tests to check the bilirubin, bile acids and liver function.

Cholestasis and the baby

This health condition can increase the risk of stillbirth, preterm birth, and fetal distress. The increased amount of maternal bile can put stress on the baby’s liver. Pregnant women with cholestasis are monitored closely and if the baby’s lungs have reached maturity, then the physician might induce labor.

Treatment for Cholestasis During Pregnancy

The treatment is generally aimed at relieving itching. These are a few treatment options:

  • Anti-itch medications or medicines with corticosteroids
  • The concentration of bile acids are reduced with medicines
  • Ice water and cold baths to decrease the flow of blood
  • Vitamin K supplements to prevent intracranial hemorrhaging
  • Dexamethansone to increase the maturity of the fetus’s lungs
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