A new mother is thanking the power of Facebook and warning others after she unknowingly developed a dangerous condition during pregnancy.
Christina DePino said she experienced constant itching throughout her entire pregnancy with her first child. During her third trimester, the expectant mother took to Facebook to seek advice after the discomfort became unbearable.
“What had started as an all-over itch started to become more pronounced on the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet,” DePino said in an interview with TODAY. “I got to the point that I could no longer sleep at night… my arms and legs were bleeding from all the scratching.”
Immediately after posting, DePino said she received messages from friends who suspected she may have developed cholestasis, a liver disease that can increase the risk of stillbirth and premature labour.
At 35 weeks pregnant, DePino contacted her doctor, and after blood tests, she was formally diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis. At her physician’s suggestion, she was induced, and delivered her daughter when she was 37 weeks to help avoid health complications for the baby.
“As soon as I was holding my beautiful baby girl in my arms, all I could think was, ‘What if?'” DePino said. “What if I had not complained on Facebook: What if no one had told me? All I could think was that I had to let other women know. I didn’t want any of them to wonder what had happened to their perfect healthy baby.”
In March 2017, just a few weeks after giving birth, DePino took to social media to share her story and warn other women in a post that has been shared more than 57,000 times.
“I would like to urge pregnant women who are suffering from severe itching to be their own advocate,” DePino advised. “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.”
What is intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy?
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a liver disorder that affects women during pregnancy, impairing the release of bile from liver cells due to increased hormones. The condition impairs function by causing bile build up inside the liver, which causes women to experience severe itching.
ICP typically occurs in the third trimester but has been reported as early as the eighth week of pregnancy, and is likely to reoccur in any future pregnancies.
Approximately one in 1,000 women will develop ICP, and poses a particular risk for women carrying multiples, have undergone IVF treatment, genetic predisposition and women with previous liver damage.
Symptoms of ICP
Aside from itching (especially on the palms of hands and soles of feet), warning signs of ICP include dark urine or grey stool, preterm labour, jaundice, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, mild depression and pain in the right upper quadrant.
Risks of ICP
ICP poses several serious risks for both mother and fetus including an increased risk of stillbirth, premature labour, fetal distress (increased heart rate and abnormal rhythm), merconium passage (where the fetus inhales it’s own feces) and maternal haemorrhaging.
Course of treatment varies case by case and is determined by a physician who may administer medication. Early detection and monitoring of the mother’s health is crucial to reducing risks to the fetus.