Cholestasis Of Pregnancy

December 14, 2009

One serious complication of late pregnancy is known as cholestasis of pregnancy. The condition comes with intense itching, mostly on the sole of the feet and palms of the hands. In cholestasis, the flow of bile from the liver is blocked. While the condition does not have any serious implications for expectant mothers, it can be dangerous to a developing fetus. When the condition is diagnosed, an early delivery is the recommended course of action.

Intense Itching in Pregnancy

Other than the intense itching, you may have dark urine, light-colored bowel movements and jaundiced or yellow skin and eyes. Often, though, the itching is the only symptom. Doctors think the condition may be triggered by the hormones of pregnancy.

Bile is an important digestive fluid that aids the body in dissolving fats. The liver produces bile which is then stored by the gallbladder. Pregnancy hormones can indeed hamper the effectiveness of the gallbladder. At times, the hormones may slow or impede the flow of bile which can then sometimes enter the bloodstream. It is the entrance of bile into the bloodstream that is called cholestasis of pregnancy.

The number of pregnant women who develop this condition varies widely from country to country. In some geographical locations, 15% of all pregnant women are at risk for the condition. In other areas, less than 1% of pregnant women are prone to cholestasis of pregnancy. While experts aren't sure why this is so, the condition is much more common during the coldest months in two countries: Chile and Scandinavia.

Predisposing Factors for Cholestasis

Certain factors may predispose pregnant women to cholestasis of pregnancy including:

*Pregnancy via in vitro fertilization (IVF)

*Carrying twins

Family history

*History of liver damage

*Family or personal history for the condition

The risk for cholestasis of pregnancy is highest among those women who have had the condition during an earlier pregnancy. Once you've had the condition, your risk climbs to about 70% for subsequent pregnancies.

Future Pregnancies

For the mother, cholestasis of pregnancy may impede the body's ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. The itching usually disappears completely within a few days after delivery. Subsequent liver problems are rare, though cholestasis of pregnancy is a real possibility during future pregnancies.

The baby doesn't fare as well as his mother, unfortunately. The complications of cholestasis of pregnancy for the developing baby include preterm birth and meconium in the amniotic fluid. If the baby should inhale the waste product known as meconium during the delivery, this may damage his lungs and cause breathing difficulties. There are also rare cases of fetal death late in the pregnancy with cholestasis of pregnancy. In general, doctors prefer to induce labor early when cholestasis of pregnancy is diagnosed to spare the baby these complications. 

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