Jaundice (cont.)

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What about jaundice in pregnancy?

Most of the diseases discussed previously can affect women during pregnancy, but there are some additional causes of jaundice that are unique to pregnancy.

Cholestasis of pregnancy. Cholestasis of pregnancy is an uncommon condition that occurs in pregnant women during the third trimester. The cholestasis often is accompanied by itching but infrequently causes jaundice. The itching can be severe, but can be treated with drugs (ursodeoxycholic acid or ursodiol [Actigall, Urso]). Pregnant women with cholestasis usually do well although they may be at greater risk for developing gallstones. More importantly, there appears to be an increased risk to the fetus of developmental abnormalities. Cholestasis of pregnancy is more common in certain groups, particularly in Scandinavia and Chile, and tends to occur with each subsequent pregnancy. There also is an association between cholestasis of pregnancy and cholestasis caused by oral estrogens, and it has been hypothesized that it is the increased estrogens during pregnancy that are responsible for the cholestasis of pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia, previously called toxemia of pregnancy is a disease that occurs during the second half of pregnancy and involves several systems within the body, including the liver. It may result in high blood pressure, fluid retention, and damage to the kidneys as well as anemia and reduced numbers of platelets (thrombocytopenia) due to destruction of red blood cells and platelets. It often causes problems in the fetus. Although the bilirubin level in the blood is elevated in pre-eclampsia, it usually is mildly elevated, and jaundice is uncommon. Treatment of pre-eclampsia usually involves delivery of the fetus as soon as possible if the fetus is mature.

Acute fatty liver of pregnancy. Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) is a very serious complication of pregnancy. The cause of AFLP is unclear, but is often associated with pre-eclampsia. It occurs late in pregnancy and results in failure of the liver. It can almost always be reversed by immediate delivery of the fetus. There is an increased risk of infant death. Jaundice is common, but is not always present in AFLP. Treatment usually involves delivery of the fetus as soon as possible.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/28/2014

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