Severe itching during pregnancy could be a symptom of a serious disorder

Did you know that severe itchy skin during pregnancy could be dangerous? It might be a symptom of a liver disorder. If left untreated it could risk the health of the fetus.

Good for Utah's Robin Saville has the story.

“I had no idea what Cholestasis was until I was pregnant with my daughter, with her. I had one day of really bad itching at about 32 weeks and it started in the middle of the night”, said Laura Anderson of South Jordan.

For Anderson the itching became so severe that it was impacting her entire life. She suspected it was a condition known as Intrahepatic Cholestasis of pregnancy or ICP for short

OB/GYN Specialist Dr. Ryan Porter said few women develop ICP.

“In the US its typically quoted as being about half a percent, but honestly I think its been much less than that in my typical patient population,” said Dr. Ryan Porter, OBGYN with Riverton Hospital. 

Although rare, ICP is a condition in the liver where bile production is slowed or stopped. This results in production of bile salts in the bloodstream. This causes itching for the mother, but can cause serious complications for the baby, including premature labor, fetal distress and stillbirth.

“The really concerning thing that keeps doctors and patients up at night is the risk for fetal demise and that is an increased risk for babies of mothers with Cholestasis of pregnancy”, said Porter.

For Anderson she believes ICP was something she inherited from her mother. Dr. Porter said, “Nobody really knows for sure. I mean there's probably some component of this that's related to genetic pre-dispositions.”

For Anderson she is happy she was diagnosed early.

“I had this strange feeling that everything was going to be okay. I hated the itching and it was keeping me up at night.”

For women with ICP Porter says it often means an early delivery.

“Even if you end up being delivered at 37 or 38 weeks which is going to be typical on a patient with Cholestasis of pregnancy, that's early enough that it can cause difficulties for the babies.”

For Anderson, she was happy she had taken action to protect her baby.

“While I wasn't thrilled about having to be induced early, I was grateful that measures were being taken that she would be okay.”

Porter said you should take the itching serious when…”If you take an antihistamine like Laratadine or Benadryl and the itching doesn't go away, you should probably talk to your doctor.”

And for Anderson…

“If you have itching that is keeping you up at night and you cannot find no relief for it then talk to your doctor.”


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