The itching in pregnancy was irritating but the fear was worse

The itching was really irritating but, for me, the most difficult thing about being diagnosed with OC was the fear, the terrible fear that I could lose my baby.

I’d suffered a previous miscarriage at eight weeks so, as soon as I fell pregnant again, I felt anxious and it stayed with me. I had a couple of bleeds early on, one on Christmas Day, and I remember saying to my sister, ‘It’s happening again’, but a scan on Boxing Day showed baby was fine.

The itching started at 34 weeks

It wasn’t until 34 weeks that the itching started and I can only describe it as feeling like something was crawling around the soles of my feet. Initially I put it down to fluid retention but I’d scratch and scratch to try and relieve it.

I’d had mild itchiness on my bump, that I put down to my skin stretching, and I when it got worse I figured it was the summer heat.

"I can only describe it as feeling like something was crawling around the soles of my feet"

I didn’t mention it to my midwife until I was 36 weeks and she gave me blood tests, she also mentioned it might mean having to be induced but I didn’t really give it much thought.

Later that day the doctor called and told me I had obstetric cholestasis, which is also known as intraheptic cholestasis of pregnancy. I’d read about itchiness in magazines but knew it was uncommon and usually affected women from a different ethnic background. At that point of diagnosis I had no idea what the implications were or how serious it could be for my baby.

Still working, and with a big meeting the next morning, I asked the doctor if I could delay a visit to the surgery until the following day and he agreed.

It dawned on me that I was at higher risk for stillbirth

But when I got home my partner, Rob, had been researching on the internet and for the first time it dawned that OC could put my baby at risk, that it had, in some cases, resulted in stillbirth.

Having been anxious throughout my pregnancy, to discover your biggest fear, that you could potentially lose your child, was terrifying. I felt such an idiot for putting my doctor’s appointment on hold and planned to call my midwife first thing in the morning.

She beat me to it, explained what obstetric cholestasis was and insisted I went straight to the hospital and told me I’d be under consultant care going forward.

When I got there they found my bile acids measuring 24. Depending on the hospital, either over 10 or over 14 means you get a diagnosis of OC. They gave me some medication, Urso, but if anything the itching got worse. I was monitored then returned a week later by which time my bile acids were at 68. There was a lot of contradiction between the two consultants I saw, one saying I could go full term but the other saying I must be induced.

In the end I was booked in for induction a week after my diagnosis at almost 38 weeks.

I’d done a hypnobirthing course and I liked the idea of a water birth, all natural. I’d even toyed with the idea of a home birth with as little intervention as possible, so to go to a delivery suite under consultant care really wasn’t what I’d wanted. But my overriding feeling was that anxiety, I just wanted my baby here safely.

My midwife was very clued up on OC, but the GP didn't seem to be

The induction was pretty awful, not so much the pain, it just took such a long time. It started on the Friday and, in the end, they broke my waters on the Monday but after nine hours our baby got stuck, his heart rate dropped and I was rushed down for an emergency C-section. I can’t remember much about it but I know that it was very traumatic and frightening for Rob, so much so that we may not have more children because he’s not sure he could go through that process, that terror again.

I was so relieved to have Teddy here, safe and sound, but I was left with a feeling of failure for having to have a caesarean, for having a condition that put my baby at risk.

The care I received was so mixed, my midwife was very clued up but my GP didn’t seem to be, otherwise he’d never have advised me to wait an extra day for further monitoring. His aftercare, too, wasn’t great, at my six-week check-up I had to tell him he needed to give me blood tests to check my liver function. It was only thanks to the ICP website I knew to ask for that follow-up test, their website was incredibly helpful and it would have been great to be pointed in that direction when I was diagnosed, rather than having to search around on Google.

There needs to be more awareness about OC, I got lucky but I know some women don’t. The itching was an irritation more than anything, it mostly happened at night and I wasn’t sleeping that well anyway. For me, the real nightmare was, having had an anxious pregnancy, having just started to relax a little, to be told something could go wrong, that I could lose my child was terrifying.

Read more about obstetric cholestasis/intraheptic sholestasis of pregnancy here

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
    • By Jess (not verified) on 8 Jul 2020 - 16:57

      Hi, I'm 34 weeks pregnant and it is on this week that I started to have intense itching on my belly, particularly below my belly button.. and i'd scratch it like so much because it really is so itchy.. Should I go for testing for this? Or is this normal? Please help. Thanks

    • By Debbie (not verified) on 27 May 2020 - 14:30


      I’m 35weeks pregnant but I’ve been feeling a weird sensation that’s sometimes light skin crawling around my scalp, face, cheeks, a bit of the neck, legs, feet, thighs and around my waist too.
      It’s really irritating especially at night

    • By Shubhangi verma (not verified) on 21 May 2020 - 00:52

      Hi I am Shubhangi I was just completed my 8 month and 7 days. From last 1 weeks I am facing problems itching problems on my stomach. Small rashes are there in my stomach. I have tried everything but issue was not resolved. It's quite irritating me and I am not able to sleep as well. Please help me what to do

    • By Jesenia (not verified) on 15 May 2020 - 09:31

      I have been so itchy in my back , my arms , my legs and also my face? No rash no bumps no dry skin.This is my 5th pregnancy I had never felt this way before it feels so uncomfortable. Just by reading this article makes me worried to have complications during labor. What test could I ask my doctor so I could find out I have this?? Does this have to do anything with gallbladder removed ?? Cause I removed my gallbladder like a year ago. Please help me out what do you recommend me to do?

    • By Emily (not verified) on 29 Apr 2020 - 22:19

      For the last few weeks I have been itching on both of my sides. I did initially have a rash on just my bump which went away after 2 days but my waist is still super itchy. I mentioned it to my midwife and she said as long as my feet and hands aren't itching then I should be OK. But it's driving me mad. It's constant...not sure what to do if my midwife thinks it's fine. I have low papp a so consultant led. I'm a 25 weeks and this is my second baby and I never had this on my 1st...please help

    • By Fiona (not verified) on 28 Apr 2020 - 15:12

      I am only 23 week pregnant but have extreme itching all over (legs back feet bump and face and arms)
      I can't sleep it's that bad and is constant
      I don't want to have to ring my maternity unit as last time I went in (I am counted as high risk due to family history) was spoken to like dirt and make to feel very uncomfortable
      What would you advice?

    • By Kia (not verified) on 11 Apr 2020 - 18:42

      I’ve been itching all over since Monday morning and I’m 35 weeks! I went to the hospital they ran test but they said my test were normal!!! They’ve given me meds but nothing is working!!!! At this point idk what to do!!! I still feel baby move but the itchy feeling has not went away and it’s very very very irritating!!! Should I have them run more test

    • By Kelsey (not verified) on 9 Apr 2020 - 06:28

      About 2 weeks ago I was really itchy over my entire body but mainly my legs. I scratched my legs until they bled. It went away until last night and now my whole body is itchy again I tried itch lotion and it got me to stop scratching for the most part. Should I contact my ob? Should I be concerned if it only happens some days? I’m 33+ weeks please help

    • By Manya arora (not verified) on 4 Apr 2020 - 22:30

      I have full body itching

    • By Jennie (not verified) on 14 Mar 2020 - 19:36

      Hello I am only 8 weeks pregnant so very early. I have been itching on my arms and face for the last week and it seems to be spreading. No rashes just itching over most of my body. I’m concerned that it’s so early that my baby won’t make it. If I have this condition is there help so I can get to a stable enough point in pregnancy that my baby can survive without being too premature? I’ve lost a daughter at 21 weeks pregnant and couldn’t go through it again. Any help would be greatly appreciated? Many thanks Jennie.

    • By Laura (not verified) on 16 Dec 2019 - 22:44

      I started getting itchy on my ankles and feet (but not the soles, more my toes so I was massaging in between them) last night to the extent that I’ve scratched until I bled. It eased during the day but I’ve had itchy boobs and tummy and just around my wrists all day. Now it’s all over my body and I’m itching everywhere leaving red marks. It’s not unbearable but it’s very irritating. Should I be worried? I feel I worry too much about everything at the moment.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Dec 2019 - 16:10

      Dear Laura
      Please go to your maternity unit for urgent review as soon as possible for bloods to be taken to test for Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy as this is what it sounds like you are experiencing.
      Get yourself seen as soon as you can if you have not already done so. Tommy's Midwife :)

    • By Swathi (not verified) on 8 Nov 2019 - 18:42

      Hello, I started itching last week but had my blood test done which came back today. Everything is normal but I am still concerned because I have a severe itching. Any better treatment?

    • By Lindsey (not verified) on 14 Oct 2019 - 19:38

      Hello, I started itching last week but had my blood test done which came back today. Everything is normal but I am still concerned because I have a little bit of itching. Should I ask for them to keep testing me?

    • By Lisa (not verified) on 2 Oct 2019 - 14:33

      Hi ,my name is lisa! I've had itching for around a month now but it's not severe. It's pretty constant and gets worse at night but I can manage. Some days it's worse than others where I will scratch till I bleed but others it's pretty good and il itch only like 2 or 3 times and hour. I dont consider this severe it sounds like most women get it way worse but it is keeping me up at night. Should I be concerned ,I also have no rash. It started as well on my feet and hands but I get it worse now on my arms and legs and thighs and head.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Oct 2019 - 15:42

      Lisa, please go urgently to your maternity unit and tell them about your severe itching. You will need your blood taking and your bile acids levels testing as well as Dr's Review. It sounds like Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. Please do this urgently. Tommy's Midwife

    • By Ashley (not verified) on 31 Jul 2019 - 23:06

      Hello can someone help please I just turned 35 weeks today and from around 2 days ago on the night I have become so itchy not just in one place but all over my body it’s so annoying and iv read that it’s bad for the baby I don’t no if I’m reading to much into it with it being on google but I am starting to worry when I think back to my first and only blood test I had done right at the start of pregnancy and they said something about my liver but have not had me back in or done anymore blood tests. Hope someone can help. Tia

    • By Emily Cooper (not verified) on 25 Mar 2019 - 19:49

      I am really itching all over i cant stop i tryed so many creams and bath stuff and even just having nothing in the water just plain water i am 18 weeks pregnant can any one help me

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