Unusual Pregnancy Disease Puts Baby At Risk

Researchers have discovered a potential link between an uncommon -- and itchy -- liver disease during pregnancy and teen obesity.

Itchy pregnancy skin

A study of Finnish pregnancies has established a link between intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy and obesity in the children of moms who suffer from it. Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, also known as ICP, only affects two percent (or less) of pregnant women. It causes increased bile levels and is characterized by unbearable itching for the mom-to-be, and can lead to complications for both mom and baby.

What is intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy?

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is when cholestasis occurs specifically during pregnancy. Cholestasis is a medical term that means bile cannot flow freely from the liver to the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine.

ICP is most common in the third trimester (although it can occur at any point in a pregnancy), and is often first suspected when the mom-to-be complains about severe itching, often of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It can also affect the abdomen and legs, and over-the-counter antihistamines usually do nothing to relieve the discomfort. She can also suffer from stool changes, jaundice, fatigue, nausea and upper right quadrant pain.

Untreated, ICP can lead to premature labor, clotting issues, fetal distress, meconium aspiration and even stillbirth. Delivery is often recommended at 38 weeks, and after the baby is born, the symptoms for mom usually cease.

Connection with teenage obesity

Researchers in Finland studied a cohort of Finnish families, and found that those who were born to mothers who were diagnosed with ICP tended to have altered metabolic profiles and an elevated BMI.

Also, researchers at Imperial College London developed a mouse model of ICP and studied whether the offspring of those mice experienced metabolic changes and obesity, and the findings were consistent with the Finnish study.

Some kids seem to be born more prone to developing obesity than their peers, and this may give parents and caregivers a heads-up early on in a child’s life so they can instill exercise habits and a good diet to hopefully ward off medical problems down the road.

More on pregnancy and health

The itch glitch: Itching during pregnancy
8 Expert tips for healthy pregnancy nutrition
10 Foods every pregnant woman should eat

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