Some women experience an increased amount of itchiness during pregnancy. Itching can be caused by a few things which are usually manageable. In cases of extreme and relentless itchiness, you should consult your doctor about the possibility of ‘obstetric cholestasis’ or ‘intrahepatic cholestasis in pregnancy’ – though this is a rare condition.
Why am I more itchy than usual during pregnancy?
How do I relieve itchiness?
What is obstetric cholestasis?
‘Obstetric cholestasis’ (OC), also known as ‘intrahepatic cholestasis in pregnancy’ (IPC), is a condition that presents as severe itchiness. A change in liver function can cause this due to a rise in pregnancy hormones. OC affects fewer than 1 in 100 women, though it is important to see your doctor if you have been experiencing intense itchiness.
Pregnancy hormones can slow the flow of bile through the liver. This means bile salts build up in your liver and can enter the bloodstream, causing an itchy feeling. Typical symptoms of OC include:
If you develop OC, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or steroid creams. Never use these while pregnant unless a doctor instructs you to. You will likely have frequent Liver Function Tests to monitor your health and the health of your baby.
OC can sometimes cause premature births so discuss with your doctor how to best manage this condition. With professional help, the condition can usually be managed without lasting adverse effects.
A lot of the time, the main issue with OC is how frustrating it is to be so itchy! The good news is lotions and fabric choices can minimise your distress, plus itching is usually gone a few days after birth. However, if your issues persist postpartum then speak to your doctor.
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