It’s quite normal to feel a little itchy during pregnancy, but if the itching becomes severe, and there is no rash, it may be an uncommon condition named Obstetric Cholestasis (OC).
OC is a potentially serious liver disorder that can either run in families or not. It can lead to increased levels of premature birth and stillbirth.
It usually comes about during the last 4 months of pregnancy and is the symptoms are caused by bile salts leaking into the bloodstream. It affects about 1 in 150 pregnant women, increasing to about 1 in 70 for Indian-Asian or Pakistani-Asian women. It is also more common in women who conceived using IVF.
As well as general severe itching, the palms of your hands, and/or the soles of your feet can be affected. These symptoms may feel worse at night.
There is not a lot that can be done to treat OC, but the symptoms can be treated, you can use lotions safe for pregnancy such as calamine lotion to help ease the itching.
It is also very important that the condition is monitored medically since it may be necessary for your baby’s health to have her delivered pre-term. This may mean you are transferred to obstetrician-led care rather than midwife-led care in the UK or you may be booked in for more antenatal appointments, blood tests and ultrasound scans to monitor your health and your developing baby’s health.
For the mum, OC can develop into jaundice if left untreated.
It is important to seek urgent medical advice if you have any concern at all that you may be experiencing this condition.