Itching and Discomfort During Pregnancy Are Signs Of Cholestasis

If pregnant women suffer acute itching that is causing pain and discomfort, she might have Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarUpdated at: Jan 28, 2020 13:08 IST
Itching and Discomfort During Pregnancy Are Signs Of Cholestasis

Pregnancy is an important journey that a woman takes. A lot of ups and downs come her way in terms of physical, emotional and mental well-being. While vomiting, nausea, acidity are common during pregnancy, what’s uncommon is itching. Discomfort-causing itching could be a sign of cholestasis. This problem occurs during pregnancy inducing severe itchiness and distress to the woman. While this seems to be an external condition, it can also harm the baby in the womb.

Itching is a common skin problem that could be due to dryness. But pregnant women must not ignore this as this minor itchiness can transform into major cholestasis. Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy or ICP is a condition that is caused due to liver malfunctioning. In this case, the bile flow in the woman’s body is disrupted due to the increase in pregnancy hormones. This not only causes severe itching but the increased bile acid levels may also harm the fetus leading to premature delivery or even stillbirth.

Symptoms Of Cholestasis

The common signs of Cholestasis are:

  • Itchy palms and feet
  • Severe itching around the belly that may lead to bleeding
  • Sleeplessness due to itching
  • Discomfort
  • Jaundice
  • Upper abdominal pain


While topical ointments and medication may provide relief in itching, this won’t permanently cure the condition. Itching always returns making things difficult for you. Usually, women get cholestasis in the late second or third trimester.

Also Read: Excessive Itching Around The Breasts Is A Sign Of Nipple Dermatitis

Risk Factors

The chances of ICP or intrahepatic cholestasis during pregnancy is higher in women who:

  • are pregnant with twin or multiple babies;
  • have had a liver disease;
  • have a cholestasis history of previous pregnancy;
  • have a family history of ICP

Possible Complications 

This condition is likely to cause severe health complications in the pregnant woman as well as the unborn baby. These are the complications faced by the mother:

  • Poor absorption of fat
  • Lowering levels of Vitamin K which could cause blood clotting
Cholestasis problem

Severe complications for babies:

  • Premature birth
  • Poor lung health
  • Breathing issues
  • Greater chances of fetal distress
  • Stillbirth or death before delivery

There are dangerous risks with both mother and child. In most cases of ICP, doctors advise early delivery to prevent any harm to the baby. A pregnant woman needs to be carefully watched by a doctor in such cases.

Treatment Options

Only a doctor can tell the best treatment as per the condition of a woman as every pregnancy is different and so is their treatment. The primary treatment is given to mitigate the itching and then further medication is prescribed.

Cholestasis itching

Also Read: 5 Genetic Diseases That May Be Inherited In A Woman From Her Mother

Here are some potential treatment options: 

  • Anti-itch medicines with corticosteroids
  • Medication to lower down the bile acid levels
  • Intracranial hemorrhaging prevention medicines
  • Vitamin K supplements to prevent blood clotting both pre and post-delivery
  • Regular blood tests to keep a tab on liver functions and bile acid levels
  • Fetal heart monitoring and contraction recording tests
  • Some doctors prescribe Dexamethasone, which is a steroid to improve baby’s lung functions
  • Ice water bath to regulate blood flow in the body
  • Consumption of dandelion root supplements

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