Cholestasis during Pregnancy

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Pregnant friend has developed cholestasis

Jan 2004

My friend is pregnant with twins, and has recently developed cholestasis; a condition in which her liver function is reduced and she is producing too much bilirubin (I'm not sure of all these details). It may pose a risk for stillbirth, especially in the later weeks of pregnancy. The worst problem for her right now is the unbelievable and intolerable itching it causes. She wakes up scratching and tearing at her skin. Her doctor has prescribed her a few medications which don't seem to be reducing the itching, and which make her really nauseous. Does anyone have any experience with cholestasis and have any advice for her on how to deal with the itching, or how to treat this problem?

I had this with my last child for the last month of my pregnancy and though I would die. This is NOT the same as many other kinds of pregnancy itching - which are often described in pregnancy books. I itched EVERYWHERE - bottoms of feet, ears, you name it. It took my ob 10 days to diagnose and in that time I got no sleep from the itching. She finally prescribed a medicine for high cholesterol - maybe Cholestyrine or something like that. It is a powder which is mixed in with juice and you drink it 3 times a day. It worked wonders - and I even was able to back off the dosage after a few days. It does nothing to the baby - just binds the salts and lets your body eliminate them naturally. Tell your friend to hang in there - it truly disappears the moment you deliver. I had natural childbirth, no drugs, no complications and healthy baby. Once I found out I had it I checked many pregnancy books and could only find mention of it in one - written by an ob/mom. Good luck
Not itching
I didn't have cholestasis (although I was tested for it) but I did have horrible, itchy rashes with both of my pregnancies. I found a wonderful, empathetic dermatologist who prescribed the oral steroid Prednisone. Although it is safe to take during pregnancy, it's not for everyone -- it gave me gestational diabetes both times. However, the rash was so excruciatingly uncomfortable (I wasn't sleeping at night) that I was desperate. Some women with PUPPPs (another type of pregnancy-related rash) have found dandelion root to help the itchiness. Been There
I had Pupps which also causes terrible itching. I'm afraid I don't have much good news for your friend. I will say that generally OBs will induce early because of the risk of still! birth, which will come as a tremendous relief to her. The itching is truly unbearable. Some things that worked for me to a certain extent: Sarna ointment (I applied it every few minutes). Six or seven oatmeal baths a day (only felt relief while in the bath). Ice packs. I finally went on oral steroids, which are not very good for the baby, but did relieve the itching, and allowed me to get a minute's sleep. That, unfortunately, won't help her. I'm so sorry for your poor friend. A
I feel for your friend. I too, was miserable with itching when I was pregnant with my twins. Things that helped are: 1. Wear loose cotton clothing 2. Use Planet detergent and no dryer sheets or fabric softener 3. Wash with Cetaph! il not soap, and warm, not hot, showers 4. Aveeno cream with praxamine(topical anasthetic)--it's over the counter 5. My o.b. also prescribed Atarax--pills which finally stopped the itching enough to allow me to get some sleep 6. She might also ask about cortisone creams. Good luck! anon
I also developed cholestasis during my 2nd pregnancy. The itching, especially at night, is indeed awful and unfortunately there is not much you can do, but just wait it out and know that it will end. My feet were the worst, I would use Aveeno Oatmeal lotion at night and wear socks to bed, that helped a little. The most important thing is to be monitored regularly, as it can cause stillbirth in the last few weeks of pregnancy in the worst cases. The good news is that literally within hours of delivery, it goes away, with no postpartum ramifications at all. There is a website called: that has some information and at least to know there are many other people out there who have suffered from it too.