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Dr Sarah Temple
A family doctor with more than 20 years experience working with children in both General Practice and Mental Health Services. Trained to run Emotion Coaching Parenting Courses. She has a special interest in the link between child and parental wellbeing.
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Pregnancy health

Obstetric cholestasis and extreme itching in pregnancy

One of the main symptoms of Obstetric Cholestasis - a liver disorder - is extreme itching with or without a generalised rash during pregnancy. Sadly, there isn't a treatment but your pregnancy and the itching symptoms can be managed throughout the antenatal period.
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In Short
Obstetric Cholestasis (OC) is an uncommon liver disorder that may lead to a baby being born prematurely.

OC affects around 1 in 150 pregnant women or 1 in 70 pregnant Indian or Pakistani women.

Symptoms include severe itching with no rash.

There isn't a clear treatment.

Lotions such as calamine may help reduce the itching.

You must be monitored by your Doctor since your baby may need to be delivered early to avoid the risk of still-birth.

Obstetric Cholestasis

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.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.