Cholestasis of pregnancy is a condition that disrupts the normal flow of bile, a vital fluid responsible for digesting fats, and can result in a range of discomforting symptoms for pregnant women.
Understanding the causes, recognising the symptoms, and seeking proper medical care are crucial for effectively managing Cholestasis during Pregnancy and ensuring the mother’s and baby’s health and safety throughout pregnancy and childbirth.
This article will delve into the intricacies of cholestasis during pregnancy, shedding light on its characteristics, possible complications, and the measures employed to address this unique liver disorder during pregnancy.
What is Cholestasis of pregnancy?
Cholestasis of pregnancy, also known as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), is a liver disorder that occurs during pregnancy. It is characterised by reduced or blocked bile flow from the liver, leading to a buildup of bile acids in the bloodstream. This condition typically occurs in the third trimester and is more common in women with a family history of cholestasis of pregnancy. Symptoms include intense itching, especially on the hands and feet, and may be accompanied by jaundice. Cholestasis of pregnancy requires medical attention and monitoring to manage potential risks to the mother and the baby.
Causes of Cholestasis of Pregnancy
The exact cause of cholestasis in pregnancy is not fully understood, but it is thought to be influenced by hormonal changes and genetics.
- Hormonal Changes. During pregnancy, the levels of certain hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, increase significantly. These hormonal changes can impact the normal flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder and intestines.
- Genetic Factors. There may be a genetic predisposition to cholestasis of pregnancy, as it tends to run in families.
- Gallbladder Issues. Pre-existing gallbladder problems may increase the risk of cholestasis during pregnancy.
- Liver Function. Some women may have a reduced ability to process bile in their liver, making them more susceptible to cholestasis.
- Multiple Pregnancies. Women carrying twins or higher-order multiples may have an increased risk of cholestasis.
Symptoms of Cholestasis of Pregnancy
Cholestasis of pregnancy typically manifests during the third trimester but can occur earlier in some cases. The most common symptoms include:
- Itching (Pruritus) during the third trimester of pregnancy.
- The urine may appear darker than usual due to elevated levels of bile pigments.
- Pain in the belly area
- Pale brown stool
- Decreased appetite
- Extreme fatigue and feeling unwell can be associated with cholestasis during pregnancy.
- The yellow colour of skin or Jaundice
It is essential for pregnant women to promptly report any unusual symptoms to their healthcare provider to ensure timely diagnosis and management.
Diagnosis of Cholestasis of Pregnancy
If a pregnant woman experiences symptoms suggestive of cholestasis, her healthcare provider may perform various tests, including:
- Liver Function Tests: Blood tests that assess the levels of liver enzymes and bile acids
- Serum Bile Acid Levels: This measures bile acid levels in the blood.
- Ultrasound: To rule out other liver or gallbladder conditions.
- Foetal Monitoring: Regular monitoring of the baby’s well-being may be recommended.
Treatment Options For Cholestasis of Pregnancy
The primary goal of treatment is to relieve the itching and prevent complications. Management strategies may include:
- Medications: Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is often prescribed to reduce bile acid levels and alleviate itching. It is considered safe for both the mother and the baby.
- Monitoring: Regularly monitor liver function, bile acid levels, and the baby’s health through ultrasound and foetal heart rate monitoring.
- Early Delivery: In severe cases or when complications are suspected, healthcare providers may recommend inducing labour or performing a caesarean section before the due date.
Complications Due to Cholestasis in Pregnancy
Cholestasis in pregnancy can pose risks to both the mother and the baby.
- Preterm birth: The elevated levels of bile acids in the bloodstream may increase the risk of preterm birth, as healthcare providers might decide to induce labour early to avoid further complications.
- Difficulty in breathing: Babies have a high risk of breathing problems.
- Risk of foetal distress: There may be an increased risk of foetal distress and stillbirth, primarily if the condition is not managed correctly.
When to Consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert Gynecology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
Cholestasis of pregnancy is a liver disorder that can cause distressing symptoms for expectant mothers and pose potential risks to the baby. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are essential to minimise complications and ensure the well-being of both the mother and the child. Pregnant women experiencing any concerning symptoms should promptly seek medical attention to receive proper evaluation and care.
Q. What is Cholestasis of pregnancy?
A. Cholestasis of pregnancy, also known as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), is a liver disorder that affects explicitly pregnant women. It is characterised by a reduction in the flow of bile, a fluid produced by the liver that aids in the digestion of fats. Cholestasis of pregnancy typically occurs in the third trimester but can sometimes develop earlier in the pregnancy.
Q. What is the main cause of cholestasis of pregnancy?
A. The main causes of cholestasis in pregnancy include:
- Hormonal changes
- Genetic factors
- Liver dysfunction
Q. Is cholestasis of pregnancy bad for the baby?
A. Yes, cholestasis of pregnancy can be bad for the baby. The condition is associated with increased pregnancy risks and complications that can affect the baby’s health and well-being. When a pregnant woman has cholestasis, bile flow from the liver is reduced, accumulating bile acids in the bloodstream.
Q. What are the symptoms of cholestasis in pregnancy?
A. The common symptoms of cholestasis in pregnancy include:
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
Q. What is the best treatment for cholestasis in pregnancy?
A. The best treatment for cholestasis of pregnancy involves a combination of medical management and close monitoring by healthcare professionals. In more severe cases, when the risk to the baby becomes significant, early delivery may be considered.