Itchy skin in pregnancy - cholestasis

Woman's hands on pregnant bellyItchy belly? You're not alone. It's very common during pregnancy and happens because your skin's being stretched and is getting more blood to it than usual.

Despite its ubiquity during pregnancy, itchy skin needs to be checked by your GP or midwife because it can be a symptom of obstetric cholestasis, a liver condition that may increase the risk of foetal distress and premature birth.

What causes obstetric cholestasis?

In normal liver function, bile salts go from your liver to your gut to help you digest food. But in obstetric cholestasis this doesn't happen properly, and the bile salts build up in your body.

Who gets obstetric cholestasis?

Obstetric cholestasis appears to run in families, although women who have no known family history can still develop it. 

If you've had it in a previous pregnancy, depressingly it's more likely to develop again in any subsequent pregnancy.

And it's more common in Asian women of Indian and Pakistani origin. 

What are the symptoms of obstetric cholestasis?

Unlike normal pregnancy itching, cholestasis makes the palms of your hands and soles of your feet itch unbearably, particularly at night, and this can spread up your arms and legs.

It usually occurs in the second or third trimester and is diagnosed by blood tests that check your liver function.

Some women don't have any rash, while others get a severe rash. 

There's no cure for obstetric cholestasis, but mercifully it does end once you've had your baby.

What Mumsnetters say about cholestasis

  • I had cholestasis that developed in my 31st week and had to be very closely monitored (daily hospital visits in the end). It can be serious if left undetected but with medical monitoring things should be fine. I had my baby five weeks early in the end because things started to get worse, so it was safer to get him out. From personal experience, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting any itching checked out. NannyJo
  • The only cure for obstetric cholestasis is to have your baby. My itching stopped the same day I had my son. Catoe
  • I have just delivered a healthy baby girl after being diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis at 37 weeks. There are two tests: liver function and bile acids. The bile test is the important one, your other liver functions can be normal when the bile is raised, so getting the bile one done is important. Steppemum



Last updated: 29-Aug-2014 at 10:14 AM