While itchy skin is common during pregnancy and usually causes no harm to you or your unborn baby, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore it.
Itchy skin is also a common symptom of a liver condition, known as Obstetric Cholestasis. It usually takes place during the second or third trimester of your pregnancy and leads to stillbirth.
However, Obstetric Cholestasis is not a common complication of pregnancy [pregnancy complications] and usually affects only 1 in 100 pregnancies. Even though it is rare, it is important for you to have a nagging itch checked out immediately.
Obstetric Cholestasis (OC) causes a build-up of bile acids in the bloodstream and increases the complications of your pregnancy. The symptoms associated with Obstetric Cholestasis gradually disappear when you have a baby.
Role of hormones and genes
The exact cause of Obstetric Cholestasis is unclear, but it is believed that hormones and inherited genes are responsible for the abnormal build-up of bile acids in the bloodstream.
Normally, pregnancy causes an increase in the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body. This increased level of female hormones slows down the rate of bile passing out along the tiny bile ducts. When you become more sensitive to the effects of these hormones, you’ll probably experience more itching.
Obstetric Cholestasis also runs in families, which means that women who develop Obstetric Cholestasis may pass on the problem to their children and so on. However, the high level of hormones in your body during pregnancy balances out to cause a much-reduced flow of bile.
Obstetric Cholestasis may harm your unborn baby. If you suffer from Obstetric Cholestasis, the risk of giving birth to a stillborn baby is 15% more than other women. No-one knows the exact cause for it. Your baby may die from accumulation of bile acids which cross the placenta or from oxygen deprivation caused by various placental problems.
Treatment is mainly focused on your unborn baby
As far as your baby is concerned, treatment of OC is mainly focused on reducing the risk of stillbirth. Scans will be used to monitor the growth of your baby. As soon as the lungs of your baby are mature enough for survival, he will be removed from your womb to prevent infant death.
If you have OC, there is a 60-80% chance that your future pregnancies will also be affected with OC. So, if you really want to avoid complications in your pregnancy, consult your doctor and genetic counselor and get an overall health and prenatal check-up before you give birth. This can save you and your unborn baby.