Monday, December 6, 2010

The Itchy Pregnancy

A few weeks ago, I got Norovirus and ended up in the hospital due to severe dehydration due to vomiting for hours and not being able to drink even sips of water.  It was not fun.

Even though I was given 2 bags of Electrolyte Fluids and felt eons better (and looked human, again), I started getting really itchy about a week later.  I don't mean that my belly was a bit itchier than normal from accommodating twins.  I mean that the soles of my feet would itch so bad that I would wake up at night and spend 30-40 minutes scratching them.  It didn't alarm me, at first, because I was just getting really rehydrated and I was sure that my skin suffered some kind of "drying out" and that the cause of all of my itching was dry skin (winter and dehydration really do a number on you!).

So, 2 weeks later, I was still itching.  I'm not dehydrated and I could not sleep some nights because the itching was so bad.  Of course, it only really happened at night.  I started to think that maybe one of the twins was sitting on some nerve or something and causing it.

It wasn't until this past Friday, when I got a "Your Pregnancy This Week" email that I started to think something was up.  I rarely read them as they refer to more single births, but scrolling really fast through the email, I saw "itching during pregnancy".  I stopped and read the whole paragraph which, paraphrased, said "If you have these symptoms during pregnancy, you should notify your care giver immediately....symptom, symptom, symptom, itching, symptom, symptom, symptom."

It was then that I realized that the itching I was experiencing may not be normal or "good".  I called my midwife immediately and told her about my itching.  She told me it could be several things, but we would go the "easiest" route first to see what happened.  She told me to send my husband out for Milk Thistle (which is a supplement that is good for liver support).  She said that if I took the pills and the itching went away, it would mean that my liver is being over-taxed.

And, sure enough...the same night, I was able to get more sleep because the itching went away.

After reading up on this (there is a website for Itchy Moms), this problem happens all too often and being that most women itch from bodily changes (skin stretching, etc) this symptom is overlooked and can have disastrous consequences (premature birth and stillbirth are some consequences).

Basically what happens is that the bile salts get into the blood stream and cause the itching.  It is the liver being over-taxed by the amount of estrogen in the body.  It can be managed and usually disappears after birth (sometimes taking a few weeks).

There are diet suggestions (which can be found on the Itchy Moms website) that can help with this (increasing fruits/veggies that support liver function).  Along with homeopathic supplements.

I cannot stress how important it is to communicate with your care provider.  If you have something going on that concerns you, it is your right to get an answer to it (even if it means demanding that they order tests).  And, please remember that sometimes the "smallest" things can mean something more, especially if there are other symptoms.  For me, I just had itching...but after talking with my midwife, I found that it was worse at night, in the soles of my feet and lower legs and cooler showers helped.  So, one annoying symptom actually was more that I wasn't even aware of.

I will be going in for liver testing within the next week or so.  I will also be going in for follow-up testing after the twins are born.

Again, please talk with your care provider regarding any concerns you my have with your pregnancy.  If something goes on in your pregnancy that causes you to stop and think about it (and be a bit concerned), you should contact your care provider and share the information.  Do not think that you are "over-reacting" or that it's probably nothing.  It may be nothing...but, better safe than sorry, right?

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