When Pregnancy Itch is a Cause for Concern

When you’re pregnant, it’s normal to feel hot, sweaty, and itchy. But sometimes extreme itchiness during pregnancy can be a sign that something is wrong.

This is what happened to US mum Christine DePino who assumed her extreme itchiness during pregnancy was simply due to the fact she had recently moved to a drier climate.

‘If you’re pregnant and your itching REALLY bad, don’t ignore it.’ 

The mum admits that the itch was so severe she would often wake up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep. She even started to notice scabs and bleeding on her arms and legs due to the constant need to scratch.

At 36 weeks she put a call out on her Facebook page, asking for recommendations on products or remedies for the extreme itchiness. One of her friends commented, explaining it could be something called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). 

Christina didn’t take any chances and got it checked out. She discovered that, yes, she did have intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP).

She was induced almost immediately at 36 weeks and gave birth to a healthy baby girl. However, if she hadn’t gone to the doctor and been induced early, there may have been a very different outcome.

Pregnancy itch linked to stillbirth 

As Christina writes on Facebook,

Started having severe itching a few weeks ago. I got the itch checked out and found out I had pregnancy cholestasis, which is basically harmless for me – except for the crazy itching – but could have caused a stillborn after 37 weeks.”

mum central
Source: Facebook

Pregnancy cholestasis 

Pregnancy cholestasis is a very rare liver condition that occurs during pregnancy. It usually happens towards the end of your pregnancy and is a sign that your liver is not functioning the way it should.

Essentially what happens is the high hormone levels during pregnancy interrupts the communication of the gall bladder and the liver, causing bile to back up into the bloodstream.

weird pregnancy conditions Pupps

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Intense itching, usually on the hands and feet which spreads to other parts of the body
  • Stretch marks
  • Jaundiced skin

Complications from cholestasis of pregnancy

For pregnant mums, the itchiness is annoying but not life-threatening and it will go away as soon as you deliver. However, there are some big concerns for babies.

Cholestasis can increase the risk of the baby being born prematurely and fetal death, especially if baby is born after 37 weeks.

“My doctor explained that while not all the reasons are understood, after 37 weeks, patients with ICP are at a very high risk of having a stillborn,” Christine says.

What to do if you’re itchy during pregnancy

Don’t take any chances. See your doctor. There is a blood test that can check your liver function and see if everything is okay.

As Christine says, “Don’t ignore the itch. A simple blood test could save your baby’s life.”

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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