Pregnancy comes with a host of unpleasant and annoying changes to your body – sprouting hair in never before seen places and haemorrhoids, anyone?
So when Christina DePino developed a severe, whole-body itch, she just assumed it was another joy of a swelling pregnant body and took to Facebook to vent about being so itchy she couldn’t sleep.
But three of her friends didn’t think such a relentless itch was part and parcel of being pregnant and urged her to see a doctor.
That choice turned out to save her baby’s life.
"I got the itch checked out & found out I had pregnancy Cholestasis, which is basically harmless for me — except for the crazy itching — But could have caused a still born after 37 weeks!!" she wrote.
She took to Facebook to share her relief at delivering a healthy baby girl when it could have gone very differently if left untreated.
Obstetric cholestasis, also known as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), affects the liver and causes bile salts to build up in your blood.
Some studies have found a link between women with OC and a higher chance of babies being born prematurely or stillborn. As a result, doctors think if women have their babies induced at 35 – 38 weeks, babies are very likely to survive, while the chance of stillbirth increases if the pregnancy goes on to 40 weeks.
The main symptom is itching which is normally worse at night, leading to insomnia and fatigue, such as Christina’s case.
The itching normally starts in the palms of the hand and soles of the feet before generalising all over the body, affecting some women so severely they scratch until they bleed.
The itching should completely disappear within a couple of weeks after giving birth, but during the pregnancy women describe it as constant and intolerable.
Rates of OC in pregnant women vary dramatically across the world. In Chile, the condition is very common, but fortunately it affects less than one per cent of pregnant women in Australia.
If you’re itching during your pregnancy, don’t freak out just yet - it’s a very common part of growing a little human inside you. But if the itching is barely tolerable, go have a chat with a medical professional.