I’m not saying my first pregnancy was a breeze but I was pretty lucky. No morning sickness, not many aches and pains and a neat little bump. However, that all changed at 35 weeks. If you read my labour story you will know that Molly ended up being born slightly earlier than planned due to a health complication called Obstetric Cholestasis.
One Sunday I was overcome with an intense itching sensation but no rash. By the Monday I was in agony and sat at my desk at work looking like a woman possessed. It dawned on me that I hadn’t felt the baby move for a while but I couldn’t really think when it last was.
Luckily my friend is an Obstetric consultant (which is always handy when pregnant) and so I gave her a quick call. Straight away she asked me if my hands and feet were itchy to which the answer was ‘no’. She said that was good as if they were it could be a rare liver condition called Obstetric Cholestasis (OC or ICP). She told me to pop to the hospital anyway to have baby’s movements monitored and to ask them to do my bloods for Obstetric Cholestasis just as a precaution. I was a little dubious about telling a midwife what to do but off I went.
I spent some time at the hospital on the monitor and all was fine with the baby. After a bit of persuading they took a blood test and said they would call the next day with the results.
I got home at 5:30pm. At 5:45pm the midwife called me and asked me to come in first thing the next morning as my bile acids were sky high and it was confirmed that I had Obstetric Cholestasis. I have to say Edd and I were quite calm as didn’t really understand the condition. Cue a night of googling and calls to my friend who explained that Obstetric Cholestasis is where your liver releases bile acids in to the blood. This is very dangerous for the baby and can be linked to stillbirth. Not really something you want to hear when 35 weeks pregnant.
The next morning I had more bloods taken, measurements of baby, ultrasound scans plus copious other tests. It was only when the midwife told me she thought the baby was breech and small as well that I had a good cry. She wasn’t luckily. I think it was just too much to take in. I hadn’t even packed my hospital bag yet. That was the first thing they told me to do.
I was referred straight away to a consultant and was required to have blood tests every other day. The first consultant I saw refused to treat me as he didn’t feel he knew enough about the condition. Instead of spending my last few weeks finishing off at work and getting ready for baby I spent most of it in the hospital being treated like a pin cushion.
I became very au fait with my LFTs (liver function tests) and bile acid levels but all I really wanted was for them to get the baby out so I knew she was safe. The doctors wanted to get me as close to 40 weeks as possible and all the time the only thing I could do was monitor baby’s movements and if I didn’t feel her move I had to go straight to hospital. How long is too long between movements? Two hours, an hour, 10 minutes? I think Edd was more panicked than me as he couldn’t do much. Luckily we only ever had one middle of the night dash to the hospital.
As well as dealing with this I was having to cope with the intense itching that had overtaken me. No cream seemed to help and I spent many a night lying on the cool bathroom tiles trying not scratch myself red raw.
Other than the itching there weren’t many other symptoms. Tiredness, lack of appetite and some nausea.
I hadn’t even seen the second consultant yet but we were contemplating a private c-section as couldn’t stand the constant worry. On the Friday I had my bloods done as usual and that night I was in agony. I couldn’t sleep as the itching was so intense. The next morning Edd was adamant that my levels must have risen as I hadn’t been this bad before and urged me to call the hospital. They went off to find the results and as I was waiting for the call back Edd decided we needed to get in the car and go to hospital anyway. Good job, as we were halfway there when they called back and asked me to come in urgently as they needed to induce me straight away.
After a day spent in hospital I was sent home as the labour ward was full. I didn’t sleep a wink as I couldn’t stop scratching, I knew my baby was in danger and I had to deal with the fact that in a few hours I was giving birth. Lets just say I was exhausted when the time for labour came round.
I don’t know why I developed Obstetric Cholestasis as I was not classed as the at risk category. We have no family history of it and I can only think it was linked to a liver problem I had when I was 18 as a result of contracting glandular fever. I had told the midwife about this but it apparently wasn’t marked on my notes. Whatever the reason I actually consider myself quite lucky as some people get it very early on in pregnancy and their stories are not always as positive as mine. I only had a couple of weeks of worrying and for that I’m thankful. The moment I gave birth the itching stopped and most importantly my baby was safe.
When I became pregnant for the second time I knew that there was a very high chance I would get OC again. I was monitored throughout and under consultant led care. Despite the odds when I had Alice at 37 weeks I had so far not developed the condition.
Although there was an apparent lack of knowledge from my consultant I have to say I never felt that they weren’t doing their best. I would rather he admitted he didn’t know the condition, it is rare after all. It’s also a difficult balancing act between having a premature baby and trying to get baby as strong as possible and when it got to dangerous levels they did act quickly.
I know from previous comments that quite a few of your have experienced OC so please do share your experiences below.