Pregnancy Problems

Cholestasis Of Pregnancy

Are you getting crazy, intense itching on your palms? Or maybe you have a little bit of jaundice? That's cholestasis of pregnancy. Find out how to treat it and if it will affect baby.

What is cholestasis of pregnancy?

Also known as obstetric cholestasis, this condition usually develops in the third trimester. It happens when bile (a digestive fluid that helps break down fats and is produced in the liver, then stored in the gallbladder) is blocked and fluid builds up in the bloodstream.

What are the signs of cholestasis of pregnancy?

The first sign of cholestasis of pregnancy is often crazy-intense itching in the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. Because the liver is affected, you may also develop jaundice, which can produce a yellowish tone in your skin and the whites of your eyes.

Are there any tests for cholestasis of pregnancy?

Yes. If your hands or feet start to itch (and you’ll know it if it happens), talk to your doctor, who can usually diagnose the condition through a simple blood test.

How common is cholestasis of pregnancy?

It’s not very common — only about one in 1,000 patients develop it. If you’re of Chilean or Scandinavian descent, you may be slightly more at risk than the average woman, since obstetric cholestasis is a bit more common in both of those populations.

How did I get cholestasis of pregnancy?

The cause of cholestasis may be triggered by the hormonal roller coaster of pregnancy.

How will my cholestasis affect my baby?

For the mother, it may just cause itching — but it can be very dangerous for your baby, since all that extra bile can put a ton of strain on his liver.

What’s the best way to treat cholestasis of pregnancy?

If your pregnancy has reached full term, your doctor may call for an immediate delivery to prevent as much harm as possible to your baby. If not, she’ll probably watch baby closely for fully developed lungs — and then deliver. In the meantime, she may give you medication to help with the itching and maybe even your liver function.

What can I do to prevent cholestasis of pregnancy?

Nothing, but women who have a family history of cholestasis of pregnancy are more likely to get it.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have cholestasis of pregnancy?

“I had it with my first pregnancy and now I have it again with this one. I was on meds but they didn't really help during my first pregnancy, but this time they're helping control the itching.  Between 32 and 34 weeks they'll do an NST to monitor the baby. During my last pregnancy, I had an amnio at 36 weeks to verify lung maturity and we induced at 37 weeks.”

“I had it with my son.  You'll want to pay close attention to how and when your LO moves. My baby was delivered by emergency c-section due to fetal inactivity and distress at 35 weeks.  I had it pretty severely, but the meds helped."

“I was induced a little earlier because I had cholestasis of pregnancy while I was expecting my first child. My symptoms were itching and a general feeling of malaise. I felt terrible. I was also having daily gall bladder attacks and the bile level in my blood was high. At 29 weeks they considered taking out my gall bladder, so I had been given steroids for my son's lungs. He was born at about 35 weeks with no breathing issues."

Are there any other resources for cholestasis of pregnancy?

Itchy Moms

March of Dimes

American Pregnancy Association

Plus, more from The Bump:

Itchy skin during pregnancy?

How do labor induction meds work? 

PUPP During Pregnancy 

By Michele Hakakha, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, California