Christina DePino thought her severe, whole-body itch was just another annoying pregnancy symptom she'd have to deal with, and took to Facebook to complain about being so itchy that she couldn't sleep. But three of her friends noticed that the itch she described didn't sound typical for pregnant women, and urged her to get it checked out, she wrote in a post on Facebook.
And it's good that they did: It turns out, that visit to the doctor saved 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 posted her story on Facebook to urge other pregnant women not to ignore severe itchiness.
"I was officially diagnosed last week and had to get her out this week," she wrote. "We are so blessed! Thanks guys for giving some amazing advice which may have just saved our precious girl's life!"
As DePino wrote in her post, cholestasis — officially called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) — is harmless for the pregnant person other than the severe itch. But it increases the risk that the baby will be born premature or stillborn, according to the National Health Services of the UK, which is why doctors will often recommend induced labor for moms with the condition.
The itching is basically a byproduct of what ICP does to the body: ICP is a liver disorder in which bile, which is usually filtered from the liver to the gut to help with digestion, builds up in the body instead, according to the NHS. Dark urine and pale poop can be signs of ICP, but the main symptom is the severe itch DePino described.
It's important to note, though, that it's normal for pregnant people to feel mildly itchy — certain hormones that are elevated during pregnancy can make your skin more sensitive, plus the skin (especially in the abdomen) has to stretch, which can contribute to the itch. But according to the NHS, the itching associated with ICP is typically far more extreme: It's all over the body (especially the hands and feet), and often makes it hard or impossible to sleep.
Still, ICP is pretty rare. It affects about 1 in 140 pregnant people, according to the NHS, and seems to run in families. So if you're pregnant and feeling a little itchy, don't worry too much. But if the itch doesn't seem right, it's always worth getting checked out.