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I suffered from Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy from the 2nd trimester, a condition in which severe itching all day brought me to the end of my tether.
Not all pregnancies are the same and no matter how much you have heard or read about it, each pregnancy has its own story. Filled with health challenges, mood swings and changes in how people perceive you (whether at work or home or even strangers on the street), every woman has lived a tale to tell. Nothing can prepare you for this wonderful and sometimes harrowing journey until you embark on it yourself.
I had mixed reactions when I tested positive: happy, anxious, confused and cautious all at the same time. ‘We are going to be parents!’ I exclaimed to dear husband and he had only one response: overjoyed! And on this note we started our pregnancy (you will soon understand why the pregnancy was ‘ours’ and not just ‘mine’).
Trimester 1 was a whirlwind speckled with many visits to the gynecologist, couple of ultrasounds, a wedding in the family and even a trip to the Great Rann of Kutchh! Weight gain – on track, blood pressure – under control, essential vitamins and nutrients – being fulfilled on time; with almost no morning sickness, no loss of appetite, no other gastro hiccups and no other seasonal illness I was rocking the pregnancy like a pro, quite literally. No maternity clothes required as yet and with a yoga regime I was balancing putting 9-10 hours at work with ease.
Then came the second trimester, and with it came slight discomfort due to random itching here and there. First it hit at bedtime before I could fall asleep and slowly bedtime reduced while scratch time kept on increasing. I had a lovely gynaecologist and she since she could be reached 24×7, I reported this to her quite early. She didn’t raise an alarm but on my next visit did some routine blood tests and ultrasounds of the abdomen.
All this took a fortnight or more, by the end of which I was diagnosed with mild fatty liver condition (reversible & harmless, nothing to do with the pregnancy) and Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy aka ICP or obstetric cholestasis aka OC (reversible yet harmful, everything to do with the pregnancy). Basically the pregnancy hormones inside me had caused my liver to malfunction by leaking bile juice into my bloodstream and wherever this bile infected blood circulated it caused itching!
We being the well-read ones did not panic and instead asked the gynecologist politely about what medications will treat it and keep the baby safe. The answer was NONE…yes you heard it right NONE. The condition is caused by pregnancy and the only way it goes away is childbirth! Now whether or not the child survives is a wait and watch game because lower the pregnancy hormones means less development of the fetus hence the to-be-mother has to bear the imbalance for the sake of the yet-unborn-child and HOPE it survives till full term. HOPE because the root cause cannot be treated, only the symptoms can be managed externally.
So nights after nights we battled itchiness and nonstop scratching; tried remedies from neem leaves to calamine lotion, from Ayurveda oils to homeopathy pills. ICP usually onsets in the third trimester the fetus never reaches full term; pre term and late pre term is the norm if the fetus survives. But since mine hit early, all of our second trimester was spent understanding and trying to accept what fate had played out for us.
By the time the third trimester began, we had adjusted to a unique routine. Back from work, I would engage in household chores to keep my mind diverted and post dinner we would surf television, watch series and movies endlessly until we were extremely tired. On most days we hit the bed at 2am but managed to sleep hardly for an hour or two and then wake up to rush for work. My yoga, his running all went for a toss; all thanks to my cook we had a decent breakfast and snacks packed for work. Intermittently parents and in-laws stayed-in but frankly nobody could help my situation as it was an intimate and personal trauma for me- both physical and mental. My husband was my rock all through- he stood by me as I suffered crying endlessly with the terrible itching during the night and stood by me as I fought to maintain my calm to focus on professional front during the day. He co-owned the pregnancy with me- the joys and the pain equally; may god bless everyone with such a lovely partner.
As month 8 drew to an end, my condition worsened with itching bouts even in the daytime. I was advised bed rest and the fetus was monitored by detailed ultrasounds every week. Steroids were injected to develop the fetal lungs in anticipation of an early delivery as my body could no longer take the toll. And yes I went into labor a whole month before the due, but as they say all’s well that ends well.
The ordeal brought us closer as a couple, developed patience in me like never before and maybe even gave me strength to undergo a normal delivery. Our hale and hearty baby has made that living hell a distant memory and when anyone inquires if the baby lets us sleep throughout the night all we respond with is smile on our faces and silent gratitude to the almighty.
Image source: pxhere