The dangerous pregnancy itch
A Parent24 reader shares the moving story of her stillborn baby.
My baby was stillborn at 36 weeks and 3 days, just two weeks after I developed itchy skin. At first I was told that itching during pregnancy was normal, but I noticed that I was itching in areas that I knew my skin wasn’t stretching such as my wrists and my collarbones. I noticed the itch was worse at night, and it sometimes disturbed my sleep. I also noticed that my urine was dark on a few occasions, but put it down to dehydration.

Discovering ICP

One sleepless night I Googled my symptoms, and came across a condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). It was difficult to believe that my seemingly harmless itchy skin could be the sign of a high-risk condition which can result in preterm labour, foetal distress and even stillbirth. I immediately asked to be tested for ICP, and the result was positive. However, my bile acid was never tested (this is the only way to gauge the risk to the baby), and I was not offered the medication Urso (UDCA) which may help to keep the harmful bile acid levels down. I was however scheduled for an induction at 37 weeks, because the risk of stillbirth supposedly increases after this point.

Also read: What you need to know about ICP

Saying goodbye

Unfortunately, we never made it to the induction date. Just four days before my scheduled induction I went into preterm labour, but on arriving at the hospital my midwife could not find my baby's heartbeat. It was too late. This has to be the most devastating news any parent can hear. I had no choice but to go on and give natural birth; we got to see our baby, hold her and say our goodbyes. I cannot describe that feeling of leaving the hospital without our baby. It was the most difficult time of our lives, but thankfully we had a lot of love and support around us.

Spreading the word about ICP management

After this ordeal, I knew I wanted to spread awareness about ICP and help prevent other families from having to go through what we did. I spent months doing my own investigation into the condition, and have since become involved with a UK-based charity called ICP Support that is linked to world leading researchers and professors of ICP. In the UK, most doctors and midwives know how to manage an ICP pregnancy, and my hope is that South Africa will get there too one day.

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