Cholestasis of pregnancy is a complication that involves intense itching.

Are you worried about your pregnancy because of strange itching? Or maybe you’re curious to know why your whole body–the palms of hands, fingers, soles of feet, face and legs–are itchy?

There are three types of cholestasis and all can be treated through medication and not harm your baby. All three types of cholestasis involve the liver. Blood tests and urinalysis can easily detect its presence. So as soon as you start itching, discuss it with your doctor in order to prevent any further complication in your pregnancy.

What is cholestasis of pregnancy?

Cholestasis of pregnancy is an uncommon complication that occurs in one out of every thousand pregnancies.

This strange itching during pregnancy is caused by the gallbladder. During pregnancy the body cannot break down fats during digestion. This creates a bile accumulation in the bloodstream and leads to itching.

What are the symptoms?

Itching is the most common symptom of cholestasis, normally occurring in hands and feet. Unlike dry skin, cholestasis causes severe itching and is accompanied by other common signs including darker than normal urine, appetite loss, fatigue, and light bowel movements.

Severe symptoms include jaundice, nausea, and pain in the upper right side of the body. The gall bladder is located in this area and when the gall bladder is stressed it can cause discomfort.

Types of cholestasis

Pregnancy Complications - Cholestasis of PregnancyWhen cholestasis occurs outside of the liver, it is referred to as extrahepatic cholestasis. Both intrahepatic cholestasis and obstetric cholestasis occur inside the liver.

Cholestasis is more common in women who have liver damage or have experienced cholestasis during a previous pregnancy. If this is your situation it is very important that you start your visits with your doctor as soon as you know you are pregnant. This way your doctor will have the opportunity to perform a complete diagnosis in order to anticipate any complications in your pregnancy.

Some studies indicate that cholestasis could be hereditary because is more common in women whose mothers or sisters have also developed cholestasis in pregnancy. Women who have had cholestasis in previous pregnancies have a 90% chance of developing it in subsequent pregnancies. However you should not be alarmed as long as you see your doctor during your whole pregnancy.

What are treatment options?

Of course there are treatments for this condition. Mild cases of cholestasis during pregnancy can be treated with anti-itch medications, some of which may contain corticosteroids. You doctor can advise you on the best treatment option for you.

Some home remedies to relieve itching include:

  • Cold baths will help slow the flow of blood and the blood’s temperature sometimes providing relief.
  • Dandelion root is a natural treatment that helps the liver function and in many cases is a remedy for mild cholestasis.
  • Vitamin K may be prescribed as cholestasis can cause a low Vitamin K count that can result in excessive bleeding.

Does cholestasis of pregnancy cause any harm to my baby?

If you are diagnosed with cholestasis, weekly tests and prompt treatment can reduce risks to the baby.

Depending on the severity of cholestasis your doctor may want to deliver the baby early and may begin steroid injections to help the baby’s lungs develop faster. This procedure is usually only recommended if you are in your 32nd week or later. Amniocentesis can be done to see if the baby is developed enough for an early delivery.

Many pregnancy complications can occur if a woman develops cholestasis of pregnancy including fetal distress, excessive bleeding, stillbirths, and in many cases preterm delivery of the child. For these reasons, if you experience unusual itching during pregnancy see your doctor as soon as possible.