I was just starting maternity leave when my legs and ankles started itching like crazy

Stacey was diagnosed with Obstetric Cholestasis (OC) at 37 weeks which resulted in an induced delivery of her son.

The midwife called to say I needed to go to hospital. ‘Tomorrow?’ I asked. ‘No, now,’ she said, and the fear started creeping in.

I’d fallen pregnant on our honeymoon and everything was perfect. In fact, my pregnancy went so smoothly that, at times, I had to question whether I was actually pregnant.

We had a private scan at eight weeks and it was amazing to see our little one and hear a strong heartbeat. Further scans at 12 and 20 weeks went really well and we had no problems.

The next day I was still itching

I was due on November 15 and planned to work right up to the beginning of the month, then changed my mind and took an extra week to get ready for baby.
It was that last Saturday at work when I woke and my legs and ankles were itching like crazy, so much so that I called the hospital but a midwife told me it was all normal, skin itches as it stretches, so I went to work.

The next day I was still itching and by Monday morning, my last day at work, it had spread all over my legs and to my wrists and hands. It was intense, like the most extreme form of prickly heat, and it was driving me nuts so I called my own midwife who reassured me but asked me to come in for blood tests.

I had tests in the morning and went to work, arriving home at 9.30pm to a missed call from the midwife. When I called her back she said I needed to come in to hospital, ‘Tomorrow?’ I asked, ‘No, now,’ she replied and the fear started creeping in.

Although she’d said everything was fine I felt nauseous. If it was okay, why the rush?

My blood tests showed I had obstetric cholestasis

At hospital my bloods showed I had obstetric cholestasis (OC), my liver wasn’t functioning properly and they needed to monitor the baby.

They kept an eye on me for an hour and, although baby was fine, my liver was functioning at 33, I think the normal level is around 11 [Note from Tommy's midwives: depending on the hpspital OC is diagnosed at over 10 or over 14]. That’s when they said they needed to induce me, explaining that baby could become distressed and the risk of stillbirth.

The staff were amazing, really trying to put us at ease, but after such a smooth pregnancy we were scared that something could go wrong.

I went back to hospital on the Tuesday for monitoring before arriving on Wednesday for induction, having my first pessary around 7.30am. I’d thought I’d just go home and wait, but they explained I wouldn’t be leaving now until baby was here.

I had the second pessary 12 hours later and that’s when the pain really started. I was in agony, couldn’t eat. I sat in the bath for around 90 minutes to soothe my back. I’d never known pain like it so when the midwife examined me and said there was no change I couldn’t believe it.

Another pessary at 7am the next morning and the pain got worse. I was climbing the walls but another examination showed, again, little movement. When they told me that evening that I was 3cm dilated and would be having my baby the next day, I didn’t even have the energy to cry.

Day three at 7am and I went to the birthing suite where they found I was actually only 1cm dilated and decided to break my waters and put me on a drip to move things along.

When they gave me an epidural it was bliss, I’d been so against the idea but it was the best thing for me at that point. The pushing part of labour went really well and Rafe arrived safely, but I couldn’t deliver the placenta. They tried for 30 minutes, eventually snapping the umbilical cord then, as I was losing so much blood, they took me to theatre to have it removed.

I remember slipping in and out of consciousness and kept telling myself not to close my eyes, fearing I wouldn’t wake up. I really thought I was going to die.

I was in theatre for 90 minutes and had several blood transfusions over the next few days before eventually going home, five days after giving birth.

When my son was born the itching disappeared completely

They’d given me Piriton as soon as I’d been diagnosed which helped and, but it wasn’t until my son was born, the itching just disappeared completely.

I can only describe the itching as like prickly heat, raking at your own skin. It was horrible and it really made me crazy. I only had it for three days but by the Monday morning I was sitting on the edge of my bed going nuts, clawing at my legs and hands, I was like a caged animal. I know some women suffer for weeks and the thought is just horrific.

I don’t know what made me link the itching to pregnancy, I guess it was instinct that led me to make that call to my midwife, I just knew it wasn’t normal.
There had been no mention of OC on the weekend NCT weekend course we took and none of my friends with children had ever heard of it so it was completely new to me.

Everything happened so fast that, it wasn’t until later I researched and found how uncommon it is and just how serious it can be. Looking back, it’s quite frightening and I now understand why they chose to induce me to keep both me, and my baby safe, and I’m so grateful they did.

Read more about obstetric cholestasis/intraheptic cholestasis of pregnancy here

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