A new mum has thanked the power of Facebook after she unknowingly developed a dangerous condition during pregnancy.
Christina DePino was experiencing constant itching throughout her entire pregnancy with her first child and took to Facebook to seek advice in her third trimester after the discomfort became unbearable.
“What had started as an all-over itch started to become more pronounced on the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet,” Christina said in an interview with TODAY. “I got to the point that I could no longer sleep at night… my arms and legs were bleeding from all the scratching.”
Immediately after posting, Christina said she received messages from friends who suspected she may have developed cholestasis, a liver disease that can increase the risk of stillbirth and premature labour.
At 35 weeks pregnant, she contacted her doctor, and after blood tests, she was formally diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis. At her physician’s suggestion, she was induced, and delivered her daughter when she was 37 weeks to help avoid health complications for the baby.
“As soon as I was holding my beautiful baby girl in my arms, all I could think was, ‘What if?'” Christina said. “What if I had not complained on Facebook: What if no one had told me?”
In March 2017, just a few weeks after giving birth, Christina took to social media to share her story and warn other women in a post that has since been shared more than 57,000 times.
“I would like to urge pregnant women who are suffering from severe itching to be their own advocate,” she advised. “Know the signs and symptoms and then contact your doctor. Don’t ignore the itch. A simple blood test could save your baby’s life.”
What is intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy?
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a liver disorder that affects women during pregnancy, impairing the release of bile from liver cells due to increased hormones. The condition impairs function by causing bile build up inside the liver, which causes women to experience severe itching.
ICP typically occurs in the third trimester but has been reported as early as the eighth week of pregnancy, and is likely to reoccur in any future pregnancies.
Approximately one in 1,000 women will develop ICP, and poses a particular risk for women carrying multiples, have undergone IVF treatment, genetic predisposition and women with previous liver damage.
Symptoms of ICP
Aside from itching (especially on the palms of hands and soles of feet), warning signs of ICP include dark urine or grey stool, preterm labour, jaundice, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, mild depression and pain in the right upper quadrant.