All pregnant women get itchy, right? It’s normal. Your belly is stretching, stretch marks inevitably make their appearance, and you’re generally uncomfortable.
But what if it’s not normal? What if it’s actually a life-threatening itch? With Lucy and Catalina, I had a rare condition called Intrahepatic Cholestastis of Pregnancy, a liver condition that can be fatal to the baby past about 37 weeks gestation. My only symptom was itching, and the only cure is delivery.
June is ICP awareness month, and because the condition can be so subtle and so dangerous, I want to share my story in case it helps someone else protect their unborn baby too.
The itching began on the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet, but quickly spread up my arms and legs. It was worse at night, often keeping me awake while I tried not to keep scratching.
But scratching didn’t help; anti-itch lotion didn’t help; nothing helped- the itch was inside. I still thought it was pretty normal, though, so I checked a few pregnancy forums to see who else was experiencing the same thing. But no one seemed to have quite the same symptoms, til I found a support group for ICP. The inside-out itch nothing can stop– it wasn’t normal, and it was dangerous.
My OB practice is full of amazing doctors, thank the Lord. As soon as I described my symptoms the next morning, my doctor ordered liver tests and confirmed that I did have ICP. She put me on medication to help control my elevated bile acids, and the girls were delivered early.
The condition only occurs in about 1% of pregnancies, and a lot of obstetricians aren’t well-educated about ICP. Even if they believe there’s something to the itching and do blood tests, they’re often reluctant to deliver early. Many women have to fight hard to get a safe delivery scheduled.With an uninformed doctor and a general lack of awareness about the condition, ICP can be a scary condition.
If you think you might have it, push hard for bile acid tests, for medication and for early delivery. Symptoms to watch for: mostly nonstop itching that nothing external can stop. But other symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, malaise, lack of appetite, upper right quadrant pain, and sometimes jaundice. If you have any of these symptoms, go get tested now!
ICP Care is an amazing resource, and they have a lot of information you can bring to your OB, as well as a doctor discussion guide. You can find more information at their website. And if you hear a pregnant mom complaining of itching that won’t go away, tell her to check out the site– it could save a life.