Cholestasis of pregnancy usually develops in late pregnancy — during the third trimester or sometimes earlier. The condition puts the affected woman in distress because it causes severe itching of the hands and feet, although various other parts of the body may itch as well. The symptom tends to worsen at night, keeping the affected woman from getting some sleep.
Even though it does not endanger the health of the expecting mom, the same cannot be said for the developing baby in her womb. This is the reason why doctors recommend having the baby delivered earlier than expected.
The condition involves the impairment of a digestive fluid called “bile” from the liver. Yellow-green in color and alkaline in nature, bile is produced by the liver and is stored in the gall bladder. It is released into the duodenum each time there is a need for the digestive tract to metabolize fat. During pregnancy, bile salts may accumulate in the blood stream as they fail to get to the duodenum via the bile ducts. This is what causes cholestasis of pregnancy to develop.
The primary and most annoying symptom of cholestasis of pregnancy is the severe itching. It usually strikes the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, although some women suffering from the condition experience itchiness all over the body. The problem tends to intensify in the evening, leaving the expectant woman unable to get some good night’s sleep.
Aside from the intense itchiness, other probable but less common signs and symptoms of cholestasis of pregnancy include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the white parts of the eyes)
- Loss of appetite
Treatments and Remedies
Relief from itching and prevention of complications — these are the primary goals of cholestasis of pregnancy treatments. There are medical solutions as well as all-natural remedies for the condition. They are the following:
- Early delivery. Cholestasis of pregnancy can be dangerous for the fetus. Doctors usually induce labor to promote early delivery of the baby. At around 37 week or so, it is possible for the baby to be delivered earlier than expected.
- The administration of steroids is commonly performed only in severe cases of cholestasis of pregnancy. It’s important for this treatment to be done under the strict supervision of a doctor due to the sensitive condition the woman is in.
- Intake of ursodiol. This medication is prescribed by a doctor to help reduce the levels of bile salts in the blood of the pregnant woman with the condition. With the excessive levels of bile salts in the blood eliminated, severe itchiness naturally goes away.
- Warm baths. A lot of women with cholestasis of pregnancy find relief from intense itching by having a warm bath. Soaking the body in warm water for minutes helps in reducing the most annoying symptom of the condition. It’s important for the sufferer to steer clear of hot baths because it will only aggravate the situation.
- Ice packs. The application of ice packs on itchy areas of the skin may work wonders. This is especially helpful for women who seem to get the symptom only on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or any other small areas of the body.
- Calamine lotion. This liquid preparation is commonly used for many other conditions that cause skin itching and irritation, such as sunburn, chickenpox, insect bites, rashes, poison oak and poison ivy.
- You may dust cornstarch on the affected areas to attain relief from itchiness. It’s also possible to make an anti-itch paste by adding a few drops of water to cornstarch and applying it where needed.
- Mild soaps. It’s a good idea for the expectant mom to steer clear of using soaps with strong ingredients as they may only aggravate the symptoms. Sticking to mild and unscented soaps is highly recommended.
- Mild detergents. The use of mild detergents in laundering clothes, towels, beddings and others is also a good idea. With the use of these products devoid of harsh chemicals, it’s less likely for skin irritation to take place.
- Loose and light-colored clothes. Allowing the skin to remain cool is very important to keep severe itchiness at bay. Putting on light-colored clothes is recommended as black and dark-colored ones tend to absorb heat.
- Take naps. Because the symptom worsens at night, it’s not unlikely for the pregnant woman to be deprived of sleep. Taking plenty of naps during the day allows her to make up for the insomnia.