A number of liver disorders can take place in pregnant women, such as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), hepatitis, hemolysis elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count (HELLP) syndrome and others. The effects of these conditions can lead to severe organ failure based on the strain they put on a woman's body. Treatment is sometimes available, but often, delivering the baby is the cure for these issues.
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Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)
ICP is a liver disorder that can occur during pregnancy. Problems from ICP occur when the flow of bile in the liver is abnormal, and a build-up of acids can occur. Symptoms of ICP can include itching (with rash), anxiety, fatigue, jaundice, dark urine and bloody stools. ICP can also increase the risk of meconium staining during the birth of the baby, preterm labour and death to the baby. Treatments do exist for the symptoms, among them lotions or antihistamines for the rash, and medications that aid in the proper secretion of liver bile.
Hepatitis is caused by a virus, and although you can contract it when you're not pregnant, it can lead to increased liver problems in pregnant women and the hepatitis B strain can be passed on to the baby in utero. Jaundice, fatigue, abdominal discomfort and a fever can all indicate a hepatitis infection. There are three strains of hepatitis (A, B and C), and some can be treated with medication, but their safety during pregnancy is not very well researched. Persistent untreated hepatitis can lead to liver disease, liver failure and liver cancer.
HELLP syndrome is characterised by a low platelet count, elevated liver enzymes and a breakdown of red blood cells. It is specifically a pregnancy complication and is considered a form of pre-eclampsia. It typically occurs in the third trimester and can also develop postpartum. Liver damage can occur, as can kidney failure, stroke, bleeding problems and even death. Placental abruption risks increase with HELLP. HELLP has a very rapid onset, and typically, the baby needs to be delivered immediately once a blood test confirms the syndrome. For babies under 34 weeks gestation, delivery can be postponed for up to 48 hours to administer drugs to help develop the babies' lungs.
Acute Fatty Liver
This condition is very rare but can cause a build-up of fat in a pregnant woman's liver cells resulting in liver or kidney failure. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice and headache. Symptoms improve once the baby has been delivered, and typically, a full recovery can take place based on the severity of the condition.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can cause elevated liver enzymes and liver swelling in a pregnant woman. It typically occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, and elevated blood pressure is a main symptom of the disorder. If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can result in seizures, stroke, or even death of the mother or baby. Frequent urine testing and blood tests can confirm if protein from the liver is being spilt into the liver. Damage to the liver can occur if left untreated.
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