Intrahepatic/obstetric Cholestasis(ICP) - Itching During Pregnancy

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Are you having sleepless nights due to severe itching during pregnancy? Check your liver function immediately. Read through the article to know more about the liver disease known as Intrahepatic/Obstetric (ICP) Cholestasis that occur in many women during

Itching during pregnancy need to be analyzed with caution. Itching all over the body or in some parts with or without rashes determine the cause of it. It can be a minor discomfort for some but life threatening for others. The hormonal changes during pregnancy affect the function of the internal organs of the mother as well the baby. Liver is one of the most affected organ in many women during pregnancy. 

What is Intrahepatic/obstetric Cholestasis (ICP) of Pregnancy?

Liver is an important organ that helps in digesting the food we eat. Bile is produced by the liver while regulating the chemical levels in the body. These biles help to take away the waste from the body. When the hormones progesterone and estrogen levels go up during pregnancy, the liver function in some pregnant women gets affected subsequently. The flow of bile salts produced by the liver is either blocked or slowed down. The bile salts stay under the skin and in turn cause minor to severe itching. The itching during pregnancy caused by the abnormal liver function is known as Intrahepatic or Obstetric Cholestasis which is commonly referred as ICP of pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of Intrahepatic/Obstetric (ICP) Cholestasis?

The symptoms of Intrahepatic/Obstetric (ICP) Cholestasis normally occur during the third trimester(8-10 month). Some pregnant women get these symptoms in the first (1-3 months) or second trimester(4-7 months) itself. 

  • Minor to severe itching all over the body with or without rashes
  • Severe itching in the palms,legs,hands and soles
  • Itching becomes unbearable at nights causing sleepless nights
  • Body temperature goes too high

How to diagnose Intrahepatic/Obstetric Cholestasis (ICP)?

Your midwife or doctor will prescribe the liver function test - a blood test - which is commonly known as LFT. The serum bile acid, AST, SGOT and SGPT levels are monitored regularly in order to diagnose and treat the disease. 

What is the treatment for Intrahepatic/Obstetric Cholestasis (ICP)?

Ursodeoxychlic acid is prescribed either for a particular period or during entire pregnancy depending on the severity of the disease. Be careful and attentive to what your doctor prescribes and follow the correct dosage of medication. Intrahepatic/Obstetric Cholestasis can cause vitamin K deficiency in the baby. Discuss with your doctor for the options of taking Vitamin K injection to the mother before delivery or to the baby immediately after delivery.

Home treatment to control Itching during pregnancy:

Follow these home remedies to manage itching during pregnancy after discussing with your midwife or the medical practitioner.

  • Take cold bath as many times as possible. Warm or hot water bath or shower increases the blood circulation and the itching.
  • Keep the environment as cool as possible. 
  • Apply cocoa butter or Shea butter based creams wherever the itching is severe. Look out for the instructions whether the particular cream can be used during pregnancy.
  • Coconut oil,Olive oil or Navarathna oil(available in India) seems to work better in some women.
  • Apply curd all over the body before taking bath
  • Oatmeal bath has worked in some women

Remember, the sleepless nights that occur due to itching during pregnancy can lead to fatigue, high blood pressure, anemia in the mother. Not treating Intrahepatic/Obstetric Cholestasis on time can become life threatening to both the mother and the baby. 

Disclaimer: The author is not a medical practitioner or an advisor. The article is written only to create awareness on Intrahepatic/Obstetric Cholestasis which causes severe itching during pregnancy. 


'How the liver works?' retrieved at


Suba Lakshminarasimhan
Posted on Aug 1, 2012
Ron Siojo
Posted on Aug 1, 2012