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Jaundice in Pregnancy: : Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention



Jaundice of pregnancy

Other Names: Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known as obstetric cholestasis, cholestasis of pregnancy, jaundice of pregnancy, and prurigo gravidarum.

It is a medical condition in which cholestasis occurs during pregnancy. It typically presents with troublesome itching and can lead to complications for both mother and fetus.
Jaundice in pregnancy, whilst relatively rare, has potentially serious consequences for maternal and fetal health. It can be caused by pregnancy or occur intercurrently. Causes of jaundice specific to pregnancy include:
  • Pre-eclampsia associated with HELLP syndrome (= haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count).
  • Acute fatty liver of pregnancy.
  • Hyperemesis gravidarum.
  • Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy.
The presenting clinical features of liver disease in pregnancy are often nonspecific and consist of jaundice, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. All liver diseases occurring during pregnancy can lead to increased maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality.
To obtain a diagnosis of ICP, there are two LFT (liver function tests) and Serum bile acid test. The liver function tests (LFTs) is a simple blood test, the results of which should be available by the next day. If the ALT level is elevated, this, plus pruritus of palms and soles, could be considered as potentially diagnostic of ICP but only with elevated bile acid levels.

While there is no cure for ICP, and no way to guarantee a successful outcome, studies have shown a slightly better fetal and maternal outcome from administration of Ursodeoxycholic Acid, whereas Cholestyramine appears to only relieve itching.

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