Pregnant Woman's Facebook Complaint About Being Itchy May Have Saved Her Baby's Life

by Megan Zander
Originally Published: 

A mom-to-be’s Facebook post may have saved her baby’s life.

Facebook is a great place to vent about what’s bugging you. But sometimes the social network is more than a place to get emoji responses. Sometimes your Facebook friends can help you spot a serious medical condition – like when itching during pregnancy turns out to be more than just an annoyance.

Christina DePino complained online about how her pregnancy was making her hands and feet extremely itchy. Her friends knew this could be a sign of a condition called cholestasis of pregnancy and urged her to get checked out. Cholestasis affects the mother’s biliary system. If left untreated, it can cause babies to die in utero. Sure enough, DePino had the condition. She set a course of treatment with her OB to keep her unborn daughter safe. If not for her friends urging her to get checked out, DePino may have been too late.

“The itching increased for several weeks until it got to the point that I was no longer able to sleep at night,” DePino tells Scary Mommy. “The itching was so severe that I would wake up and I wouldn’t be able to go back to bed, and my legs and arms were scabbed and bleeding from the uncontrollable need to scratch. It started all over at first and then got worse on my hands and feet.”

DePino was 35 weeks along in her pregnancy when her friends first alerted her to the fact that she might have cholestasis. She had the condition confirmed by her doctor. They decided to induce her labor at 37 weeks in order to reduce the risk of something happening to the baby. At 37 weeks DePino delivered a healthy baby girl named Lexa Rae.

Image via Christina DePino

Cholestasis is somewhat rare, generally only occurring in one out of every 1000 pregnancies. It happens when your body produces too much bile for your body to properly break down. Most often women with the condition will experience intense itching during their third trimester, but symptoms can start sooner. And while most women have the worst of the itching on their palms and feet, there can be other signs. Some women experience itching all over, nausea, right upper quadrant pain, loss of appetite, changes in stool or jaundice.

DePino said her itching went away after the birth.”I felt 100% better after delivering my baby because everything I had read indicated that once baby was delivered all symptoms would disappear,” she explains.”That is what happened for me.” She shared her experience on Facebook in hopes that other woman will tell their doctor if they too experience extreme itching during pregnancy.

Image via Christina DePino

Like DePino, I had cholestasis of pregnancy. But I almost made the potentially fatal mistake of not telling my doctor about my symptoms. Yes, I was scratching my hands and feet until they bled every night, but I was stuck on bedrest in the middle of winter. I figured my itchiness was the result of dry skin and the compression socks I was wearing every day.

My husband mentioned the constant scratching to my OB at the end of one of my routine checkups. Based off my symptoms and a glance at my scabby palms the doctor suspected I had cholestasis. A blood test confirmed the diagnosis and I was placed on medication with a plan to induce my labor at 35 weeks if my twins didn’t make an appearance before then (They arrived at just over 33 weeks). I still shudder when I think about the possible “what ifs” had my husband not mentioned my itching to my OB.

People love to make jokes about pregnant women complaining all the time, but the truth is a ton of changes happen to your body during pregnancy. It’s hard to know what’s nothing to be concerned over and what is. Don’t hesitate to tell your OB or midwife how you’re feeling. Better to have them tell you not to worry than let something serious go untreated.

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