What is Cholestasis of Pregnancy?

What is Cholestasis of Pregnancy?

Mar 5, 2018

You’ve been cruising through your pregnancy with little complications until you entered the third trimester. Suddenly you’re unbearably itchy…everywhere! Your skin may look yellow and you don’t feel good. It’s time to see your health care provider to have some blood tests done.

What is going on?

You may be experiencing what is known as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known sometimes as pruritus gravidarum. Cholestasis of pregnancy occurs in about one to two women out of 1,000 overall. ICP is a serious liver condition in which the flow of bile in the gallbladder is slowed or stopped. Although it may begin in early pregnancy, cholestasis is more common in the last trimester of pregnancy and usually goes away within a few days after delivery.

Cholestasis symptoms include overall general itching without a rash, dark urine, light coloured bowel movements, and jaundice. Cholestasis is a serious medical condition which can increase your risk for fetal distress, preterm birth, and stillbirth. It is also linked to increasing your risk of postpartum hemorrhage after delivery. Left untreated ICP can manifest into a serious and often life-threatening diagnosis of HELLP Syndrome.

Your doctor will monitor your blood tests for liver function, bile acids, and bilirubin to prevent further complications. The goals are to relieve your severe itching and ensure your and your baby’s well-being. An early term induction may become necessary if monitoring and medications fail to prevent further progression of this disease.

While this serious condition can be frightening, know that your health care team have your and your baby’s health and safety first and foremost in their mind and will continually monitor your pregnancy for further signs of complications.

We encourage you to learn more about our "What in the World" series. Please see our A to Z index for a whole host of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting information and terminology.

Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.