The eight month itch

Yesterday was the first time in my pregnancy where I resorted to calling the Maternity Helpline. The Maternity Helpline is an invaluable resource provided by the NHS for neurotic mothers to ring up when they are worried about the crazy symptoms they are experiencing and speak to a real life midwife about it and determine whether the apocalypse is nigh or if they just need to put their feet up more.

This morning’s phone call was the direct result of the plague of the medical profession, self-diagnosis via google. On this occasion, I was worried I had a condition called cholestasis (sounds nasty doesn’t it?). The symptoms I have been experiencing over the weekend is a sharp increase in the general itchiness I have experienced since the first trimester, but this time itchiness cubed. Rather than limiting itself to my abdomen, the itchiness was spreading to my arms, hands, legs and, especially annoying, the soles of my feet. Much like a cat, I now take great pleasure in rubbing myself (especially my feet) against inanimate objects to relieve the itching. I even wake up to find myself scratching myself or generally disturbing the cat by trying to find something to rub my soles against (she is a bit too soft to prove a good surface to rub against, but that didn’t stop me trying last night in my sleep).

So this morning I decided to research possible causes, and the second hit on google led me to cholestasis which is a liver function problem that exhibits itself by symptoms including itchy palms and soles and has dire consequences like:

  • Premature labour
  • Haemorrhage (as if I don’t have enough problems with my blood!)
  • Fetal distress
  • Meconium ingestion or aspiration (breathing in fetal poo – lovely)
  • Stillbirth
  • So obviously I was a little concerned. I knew it was probably nothing, but weighing it up I figured I might as well ring and check I was being ridiculous rather than just worry about it. Just in case…

    The very nice woman at the Maternity Helpline put me at ease, saying that cholestasis had a very specific set of symptoms including that the itching was limited to the palms and soles and much worse at night. So given I was itching all over then it was unlikely to be this rare condition.

    Update: It seems cholestasis and other liver function issues can present as itching anywhere – I think the key being that it’s more than one place on the body and there is no rash or anything to explain the itching. My advice would be to get it checked out asap and have the blood test to check your liver function just in case!

    If I wanted to reduce the itching, I should try cool or luke warm showers and slathering myself with moisturiser. If I am still worried about it on Friday when I’m at the hospital then I should tell them about it, and I should do a fetal kick test (lie down for two hours and count 10 kicks). I joked that that could be quite difficult in the office, but she retorted that if I choose to work this late in pregnancy then I need to determine my priorities and perhaps choose to go home. So that was me told. I decided to try it sitting up in my chair and gave it a bit of encouragement with the remainder of my daily coffee – this perked it up and we successfully made it to 10 within 1hr25 (there were probably more but I sometimes got a bit distracted by fascinating work issues). So it seems number five is alive (and kicking)!

    Assuming the itching isn’t being caused by a debilitating liver function failure, then the most likely suspects for causing it are skin expansion, dry skin (especially if removing lovely body oils through my pesky habit of wanting a warm shower) and the largest re-offender of them all, oestrogen (seemingly behind all common pregnancy ailments).

    BabyCenter alongside providing more indepth information on each of these, also cites the excitingly named condition, polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP) which seems to be a rather overblown name for a bit of a rash!

    So at least I don’t have a rash… Just need to get used to cold showers!

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