By Nina Bahadur
Friends urged her to get checked out for a rare condition—and she had it.
When 28-year-old Christina DePino was pregnant with her first child, she often posted updates to Facebook. One day, she mentioned she was experiencing severe itching—and her post may have saved her baby’s life.
“The itching was so severe that I would wake up and I wouldn’t be able to go back to bed, and my legs and arms were scabbed and bleeding from the uncontrollable need to scratch,” DePino told CBS News.
Friends who read her update urged DePino to get checked out immediately, as severe itching can be a sign of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. This is a hormonal condition affecting the mother’s gallbladder, which can cause complications for both mom and baby and increases a woman’s chance of delivering a stillborn. DePino immediately sought medical tests, and was officially diagnosed with cholestasis. Her physicians decided to induce labor at 37 weeks, and DePino delivered a healthy daughter, Lexa Rae. DePino wants to warn other expecting moms about the condition.
“I would like to urge pregnant women who are suffering from severe itching to be their own advocate,” DePino told TODAY. “Know the signs and symptoms and then contact your doctor. Don’t ignore the itch, a simple blood test could save your baby’s life.”
Experts say that intrahepatic cholestasis is a rare condition which affects between 0.4 – 1 % of pregnant women. The most common symptom is extreme itching without a rash, and less common symptoms include darker urine, lighter stools, fatigue, decreased appetite, increased nausea, and jaundice. However, doctors say not to immediately panic if you feel itchy.
“Not all itchy pregnant ladies have cholestasis,” says Dr Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Yale University School of Medicine. “There are other much simpler events during pregnancy that can lead to itching.”
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If you are experiencing unusual itching, Minkin recommends that you contact your ob-gyn or midwife for testing. “Bottom line: don’t panic, check in with your provider,” she says. Dr Fahimeh Sasan, an ob-gyn at Mount Sinai Hospital says the testing process is fairly easy: “Go to your doctor to confirm or exclude a diagnosis. This is done by a blood test to check bile acids and liver enzymes.”
Minkin says, “If it is indeed cholestasis, you and your baby will be monitored, and the baby delivered as soon as delivery is indicated.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com