When mom-to-be Christina DePino experienced some extreme itching in the late stages of her pregnancy, she got concerned and (wisely) sought a doctor's advice. Her doctor informed her she had pregnancy cholestasis, which, for her, resulted in the itching, but for others can result in the baby being stillborn. She shared on the Love What Matters Facebook page that she had to deliver the baby soon after that and only a little before the due date and advised any other itchy mamas-to-be to take it seriously.
To add to the conversation and enlighten any other itchy pregnant ladies, we reached out to Brunilda Nazario, MD, associate medical director at WebMD, to learn more about cholestasis and how it can be treated. Dr. Nazario said the itchiness that a mom-to-be might experience because of cholestasis will primarily be at night and on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. "Other symptoms are unusual, but rarely abdominal pain can be seen," she added.
The cause for the itching is the increase of bile in the blood, she said. Similarly, cholestasis during pregnancy is caused by the same thing, which is why the itching occurs. Dr. Nazario said that the underlying cause of the buildup is still a bit of a mystery, but genetics, hormones, and environmental factors all contribute. She also said, "Some studies show that IVF, treatments with progesterone, and possible ovarian stimulation through these treatments can trigger the condition."
It's most likely to occur in the second and third trimester of pregnancy when estrogen levels are their highest, Dr. Nazario said, and cholestasis of pregnancy is much more common in twin pregnancies.
One of the dangers of this condition is that it's associated with dangerously high blood pressure in late pregnancy, a life-threatening condition called preeclampsia. Cholestasis of pregnancy also carries a significant risk for the baby, including prematurity, respiratory distress, and death.
If you're experiencing this kind of itching, Dr. Nazario recommends seeing your doctor immediately, as medication can be prescribed to help reduce bile levels, and blood work should be done throughout the remainder of the pregnancy to monitor mom and baby. She also noted that moms who have cholestasis in one pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing the condition in future pregnancies.