Cat was diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis at 32 weeks

Cat Loxton was diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis at 32 weeks. She was induced at 37 weeks to deliver son Barney, now seven months.

I really enjoyed being pregnant then, within a week, I was diagnosed with a double whammy of obstetric cholestasis (OC) and gestational diabetes.

Diabetes I knew about, but I’d never heard of OC. It was only a chance conversation with a client three weeks earlier who’d suffered so badly that she’d scratched until she’d bled, that made me recognise the symptoms when my own itching began.

I was around 32 weeks when it started, on my hands, feet and bump, and I’d noticed that for a week before the itching started my wee had been really dark no matter how much fluid I’d drank.

I can only describe it as like having chicken pox and the itching was far worse at night.

I felt like I’d got ants in my pants, I just couldn’t stop itching.

I would absolutely have put it all down to being part of my pregnancy if it hadn’t been for that talk with my client, which made me wonder enough to look up my symptoms and then email my midwife.

She replied and said that, while it was probably nothing to worry about, I should go and get a blood test. I had a big meeting, so I left it for a day.

I had a call from my GP saying ‘Go to hospital now.’ 

Then within 24 hours of them taking blood samples I had a call from my GP saying ‘Go to hospital now.’ I told her I was on my way to a meeting but I’d go straight after and she insisted, ‘No, turn around and go now.’ Although everyone had tried to be reassuring, it was a worry. I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘Why the urgency?’

I tried to keep calm, to avoid panic and when I arrived at hospital they took more bloods and monitored me for half an hour to see if baby was okay. It was a relief when they told me he was fine.

Although it was going to be a week before the results came through, they decided I presented enough symptoms to be diagnosed with OC and put me on medication which calmed everything down quickly. I was quite lucky, within five days of seeing them, the itchiness had subsided and didn’t get bad again.

I know it’s not that simple for everyone. The woman who’d made me aware of OC went to her doctor at 36 weeks and was pretty much given an emergency C-section there and then because the condition of her baby was so bad.

Almost immediately on diagnosis they told me they’d be inducing labour three weeks early.

In a way that had the biggest impact. I freelance so realising I’d have to finish work earlier and adjust everything was a shock, I’d been convinced I’d be two weeks late.

I was aware from my online search that OC can mean a minor increased chance of stillbirth and that was reiterated by the doctor when I was diagnosed. They were very clear from the beginning and very reassuring, they were taking no chances.

I went in to be monitored every week and I was told to be more aware of baby’s movements and, if I had any concerns, to come into hospital right away.

I think I struggled more with the gestational diabetes than the OC which was diagnosed first. I felt really let down by my body because I’d eaten well, exercised and done everything I should have.

My Dad is a GP and Mum is a nurse so having them to talk to about the OC really helped and I have to say the midwives at UCH were brilliant.

They did induce labour at 37 weeks and it was 48 hours before my waters broke but then, when it kicked in, just three hours before I was fully dilated which was a bit of a whirlwind. Then my baby got stuck so I spent over five hours desperate to push and not allowed to. The actually prepped me for an emergency C-section in the end because he got distressed but, as they were getting me sorted, he rotated himself and he was delivered by forceps.

There was no real aftercare for the OC and nobody really discussed it with me afterwards. The symptoms just disappeared and I didn’t know that I was supposed to be checked over.

I don’t understand why women aren’t educated about OC.

I know it’s fairly rare but, not everyone gets diabetes or pre-eclampsia and women are much more aware of both.

If it hadn’t been for a chance conversation with someone who’d suffered I probably wouldn’t have done anything about it and things could have been a lot worse.
That realisation that, in this day and age, pregnancy can be very complicated is unnerving. I remember saying to Scott about a week after Barney was born that he, I or both of us could have not made it through the experience, the OC, the gestational diabetes or him getting stuck in labour.

It makes you realise how much you take for granted. Healthy babies are born every day, but not for everyone and it’s a sobering thought.