Cholestasis of Pregnancy or Pruritus Gravidarum

August 8, 2010

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What is Cholestasis of Pregnancy?

Cholestasis of pregnancy, or pruritis gravidarum is a condition in which the gallbladder does not function properly, when the normal flow of bile is sluggish or halted. This causes itching and yellowing of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.

Cholestasis can begin in early pregnancy, but is most common during the last trimester. It typically disappears within a few days following child birth.

Cholestasis is very rare, occurring in about 1 or 2 out of every 1000 pregnant women. It is most common in women of Swedish and Chilean descent and among women with multiple pregnancies.

What Causes Cholestasis of Pregnancy?

Cholestasis of pregnancy is caused by the effects of hormones on the gallbladder. When gallbladder function is slow, or stops it can cause a build up of bile in the liver. This can enter the bloodstream and result in itching.

Is Cholestasis of pregnancy dangerous?

Cholestasis can contribute to a greater incidence of preterm birth and fetal distress. It can also increase the risk of maternal hemorrhage after the baby is delivered.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cholestasis of Pregnancy?

Symptoms of cholestasis include, but are not limited to:

  • Itching all over
  • Dark colored urine
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Bowel movements that are light in color

How is Cholestasis of Pregnancy Treated?

Treatment can vary from case to case. Itching may be treated with a variety of anti-itch medicines applied to your skin or with certain steroids. There are also medications which work to reduce the level of bile in your body. Vitamin K may be recommended for conditions of abnormal bleeding.

You and your baby will be monitored by your health care provider to help prevent complications from arising.

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