The itch often strikes your hands and feet. But it can occur all over—affecting your arms, your legs, even your scalp. And the urge to scratch can be so intense that it keeps you up at night.
That’s what happened to Christina DePino, 28. A few months into her pregnancy, her skin was scabbed and bleeding from all the scratching, she told CBS News.
DePino says she initially attributed the itching to her skin stretching from pregnancy, as well as her recent move to a drier climate (from Louisiana to Michigan). But after venting about the issue on Facebook, friends came up with a possible cause: intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP).
ICP refers to a group of liver disorders, all of which lead to a buildup of bile in the blood. While ICP most often occurs in the third trimester, it can show up as early as eight weeks into pregnancy. It’s caused by a combination of genetics and elevated levels of progesterone and estrogen, which interfere with your liver’s ability to function.
The most common symptom of ICP? Itching. It can range from moderate to severe, as in the case of DePino, who was officially diagnosed with ICP at 36 weeks pregnant.
“My doctor explained that while not all the reasons are understood, after 37 weeks, patients with ICP are at a very high risk of having a stillborn,” DePino told CBS News. “He also explained that induction was still my choice, as it is possible to carry a baby to full term and not have a stillborn.”
DePino opted to be induced and ultimately gave birth to a healthy baby girl a week after learning she had ICP. Since then, she has taken to Facebook again, this time to issue her own warning about the condition.
“If you’re pregnant and you’re itching REALLY bad, don’t ignore it!” she wrote in her post. “A simple blood test could save your baby’s life.”