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Physically speaking, pregnancy is not the best period of a woman's life. There are many aches and pains associated with it that might not be pleasant for the body. While having a little bit of discomfort in this regard is pretty much normal, the fact is that we often tend to disregard the actual causes of concern as something that is utterly normal.
The societal norm that 'pregnancy is a tiring period' is to be blamed for this. It is as a result of the same that women tend to disregard things which are not normal as things that are and end up suffering more than what they should.
An example in this regard would be that of severe itching that many woman experience in the later stages of their pregnancy. This is often due to cholestasis. The increase in the normal bile flow is affected due to the pregnancy hormones.
As a result, the liver is affected and this results in Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy, or ICP. The condition is so called because this state of the liver happens only in pregnancy. In fact, the occurrence of this is noted mainly in the third trimester when the pregnancy hormones in the body are at their peak.
In most cases, the same disappears within a week of delivering the baby. Now, this is one of the least discussed about aspects of pregnancy. That is why this article aims to throw light on this and discuss in detail the symptoms of ICP in pregnancy. Read on to know more.
What Is ICP?
In order to understand this pregnancy-related medical condition, it is important for us to understand the basic functioning of the liver. Under normal conditions, liver produces an enzyme called bile. The primary purpose of bile is to break down the fats and thereby aid in the process of digestion. This bile, after being produced by the liver, is stored in the gall bladder.
Now, when a pregnant woman suffers from ICP, what happens is that the production of bile in the liver is slowed down. In some extreme conditions, it may be stopped completely as well. This naturally creates a buildup of bile acids in the liver. After a certain point, the same spills itself into the bloodstream.
Medically speaking, if the serum bile acids or the total bile acids (TBA) in the body are 10 micromol/L or above, a pregnant woman is said to be suffering from ICP. This is a very risky condition and if the same is not treated on time, it may result in a pre-term labor, fetal distress and even stillbirth.
Thus, it is important for pregnant women to be wary of the symptoms of this condition and if they find themselves to be suffering from this, they must take appropriate measures to keep a check on this.
Symptoms Of ICP
- Light Coloring Of The Bowel Movements
- Pain In The Right Quadrant
- Fatigue And Loss Of Appetite
This is the most common symptom associated with ICP. Although the itching may actually be all over the body, the initial symptoms are restricted to the hands and feet. The intensity of itching varies from woman to woman and is usually found to be more severe in case of pregnant women who are carrying multiples.
For the same woman, the severity of the itches may vary over weeks. Most women suffering from ICP complain that the intensity of the itching is higher at night when they are trying to sleep as compared to the rest of the day.
The most common liver condition that most of us are familiar with is that of jaundice. Indeed for many other problems associated with the liver, jaundice is one of the first symptoms and ICP is no different. The symptoms of jaundice include yellowing of the eyes, skin and the mucus membrane.
This is especially true in the case of pregnant women who suffer from ICP in the initial trimester instead of the last. In such cases, if the doctor diagnoses you with jaundice, the first thing that is checked is the bile secretion levels.
It is important to understand that if ICP is diagnosed early in pregnancy, with proper medication (and appropriate rest and care), it can be ensured that minimal damage is caused to both the mother and fetus.
• Light Coloring Of The Bowel Movements
This symptom of ICP is a little difficult to trace. This is because the pale colour of bowel movements may be due to a variety of other reasons as well. However, if your mother, sisters or any other close relative from the maternal side of the family have had a history of ICP, you must be on the lookout of this symptom.
Unlike all other liver conditions that usually run in the father's side of the family, in most cases, it is seen that ICP runs in a family from the mother's side. Thus, if you have a family history of ICP, it is wise on your part to be wary of this symptom.
• Pain In The Right Quadrant
Aches are nothing new when talking about pregnancy. In fact, there are very few body parts that pregnant women can state as being completely pain free during the nine months of gestation. However, if you experience excess pain in any the upper right quadrant (RUQ) of your body, you must intimate your doctor of the same.
In most cases, this is a cause of stones in the gallbladder. If your doctor affirms that this is not the case, chances are that you are suffering from ICP.
• Fatigue And Loss Of Appetite
This is another pregnancy-related condition that may be attributed to a number of reasons. It is natural for the body to feel exhausted, as this is now sustaining two lives instead of one. However, if you feel that the level of exhaustion that you are experiencing is more than the normal expected levels, you must intimate the doctor of the same.
This is especially true in case of women who have suffered from jaundice in the past 24 months or have had a history of liver damage. Women who were used to drinking alcohol prior to getting pregnant must also be wary of this particular symptom.