A pregnancy specific condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known as obstetric cholestasis (OC) occurs in 1 in 1140 pregnancies, yet many people have not heard of the disease.
ICP, which typically develops in the third trimester, is the most common liver condition of pregnancy, and its main presenting symptom is itching. The itch can vary from mild to so severe that the woman scratches herself until she bleeds. Secondly, ICP increases the risk of stillbirth by three times and is also linked to preterm labour and an increased likelihood of the baby needing be admitted to a neonatal unit. *
Sadly, Lisa McNally lost her beautiful daughter Harlow Rose, born still at 33 weeks on 30 December 2014. Harlow wasn't breathing when she was born, she died in the womb due to ICP.
As difficult as it is for Lisa to share her story, she wants to make other mothers aware of the condition, and symptoms to look out for. See In Memory Of Harlow Rose on Facebook.
At 28 weeks pregnant with Harlow Rose, Lisa started to experience itchy feet and lower legs during the night. The itchiness soon took over her body, and became so severe she would be covered in bruises and scratch marks. On her 33 week Antenatal appointment, Lisa was told Harlow Rose had no heartbeart, and her baby had tragically passed away.
"Although researchers believe that ‘active management’ of the condition (which includes blood tests, medication – UDCA and delivery of the baby by 38 weeks), significantly reduces risks, women are still tragically going undiagnosed and contributing to the statistic of 6 babies stillborn every day in Australia." Lisa says.
ICP is diagnosed by excluding other causes of itch and by measuring the amount of bile acids in the mother’s blood. Severe ICP (bile acids over 40 micromol/L) occurs in around 1 in 1,000 pregnancies.
Lisa and her partner Peta, contacted ICP Support to help them understand the condition better, and seek support through their precious memories group.
Lisa and Peta, do not wish for anyone to go through the heartache of loosing a baby through ICP, and would therefore like to make others aware of the condition, and ICP Support, originally set up (as OC Support) in 1991 by Jenny Chambers.
If you or anyone you know, is experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, please seek medical advice.
* Geenes V, Chappell LC, Seed PT, Steer PJ, Knight, M, Williamson C. Association of severe intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy with adverse pregnancy outcomes: a prospective population-based case-control study Hepatology 2014; First published online 26 February 2014; DOI: 10.1002/hep.26617