Itching is common in pregnancy. Usually, it’s thought to be caused by raised levels of hormones. Also, the stretched skin of your tummy as it grows can feel itchy. However, sometimes itching can be a symptom of a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known as obstetric cholestasis (OC), which needs medical attention.
Mild itching is not usually harmful to you or your baby, but it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition, particularly if you notice it more in the evenings or at night.
Let your doctor know if you are experiencing itching so they can decide whether you need to have any further investigations.
How to cope with mild itching?
- Wear loose clothes, so your clothes are less likely to rub against your skin and cause irritation
- Avoid synthetic materials and use natural ones, such as cotton, so the air can circulate close to your skin
- Take your shower using cold water
- Apply lotion or moisturizer
- Avoid using products with strong perfumes
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP)
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a potentially serious liver disorder that can develop in pregnancy. There’s no known cure for ICP, but it should go once you’ve had your baby.
When does ICP happen?
Symptoms of ICP typically start from around 30 weeks of pregnancy, but it’s possible to develop the condition as early as 8 weeks.
What are the symptoms of ICP?
For many women with ICP, the symptoms are often:
- Itching, usually without a rash
- The itching is more noticeable on the hands and feet but can be all over the body
- It is unbearable and worse at night but can be mild
Other symptoms can include:
- dark urine
- pale poo
- yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) – this is less common
When to get medical help?
You should go to the hospital for a check if you have:
- Mild itching or distressing, possibly worse at night
- Itching anywhere on your body, but may be worse on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet
Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat, MD. (30 June 2020)