Suffering from cholestasis or other itch-related complications? Check out these remedies, treatments and tips about coping with cholestasis of pregnancy.
If I could have called it quits during my pregnancy with the twins, I would’ve done it any time around the 32 week mark. A woman carrying twins at 32 weeks is already as large as a woman carrying a singleton at 40 weeks. In short, twin moms are ready to pop but still have to grow for two more months. Not fun. As if I couldn’t get more uncomfortable, I got hit with cholestasis of pregnancy.
What is cholestasis of pregnancy?
Few people know about cholestasis, and certainly not me at that time. The Mayo Clinic says:
Cholestasis of pregnancy occurs in late pregnancy and triggers intense itching, usually on the hands and feet but often on many other parts of the body.
Cholestasis of pregnancy can make you intensely uncomfortable but poses no long-term risk to an expectant mother. For a developing baby, however, cholestasis of pregnancy can be dangerous. Doctors usually recommend early delivery.
Doctors don’t know the cause of cholestasis, but many point to poor liver function. The only ‘cure’ is to deliver the baby (or babies) no later than 37 weeks. A prolonged pregnancy can lead to complications for the baby, from slight to devastating.
On top of that, I also came down with PUPPPs, another itch-related pregnancy complication. (What is it with me and rashes?) PUPPPs has nothing to do with cholestasis but was something I was unlucky to have as well.
So, not only did my hands and feet itch, but everywhere else on my body too. PUPPPs has no ill effect on the baby, but, like cholestasis, is difficult for the mother.
How bad is it? Imagine for a minute having a bug bite. You know how those things sting and itch like crazy? Now imagine hundreds of those all over your body. All while at the end of your pregnancy and dealing with a toddler.
For those going through cholestasis and PUPPPs, I feel you. Trust me when I say I was also online, searching for a cholestasis of pregnancy treatment. Something to help me get more than two hours of sleep a night. From feeling depressed about my predicament. To see the light at the end of the tunnel. And trying to stay positive in difficult times was a challenge.
My doctors prescribed medicines like topical ointments and ursodiol. They also monitored me more, checking for my babies’ heartbeats at least three times a week. And they’d test my blood levels regularly as well.
Coping with cholestasis of pregnancy
While the doctors offered a little bit of help, I also found a few ways to help make the days not feel so terrible. These didn’t resolve the issue, but did give me back a little bit of control. An hour or two of relief before it started all over again. At least I had a bit of relief, no matter how small, and the feeling that I was at least doing something to help.
Here were my coping methods and home remedies for cholestasis of pregnancy and PUPPPs:
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- Soak in lukewarm to cool water. When the itching got so bad, I would fill up the tub—sometimes two or three times a day—to soak for a long time. The water relaxed my mind and helped stop me from scratching my rash.
- Take cool showers. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, frustrated at yet another sleepless night, only to turn on the shower. I’d stand as cold water numbed my body and helped provide a tinge of relief.
- Sit in front of a fan. After you shower, sit in front of a fan to help cool the heat of your body down.
- Apply anti-itch lotions. These tend to work for smaller inflammations like bug bites and poison ivy. Still, I slathered on these lotions for a bit of cool relief. A popular one among sufferers was Sarna.
- Use tar soap. When researching coping methods, I’d hear about tar soap from fellow itch sufferers. I bought a bar from my local natural grocery store and would use that each time I’d bathe or shower.
- Wear loose clothing. At this late stage in your pregnancy (especially a twin one), you have no choice but to wear loose clothing. I couldn’t fit into my husband’s shirts and had to buy the biggest maternity tops I could find. Loose clothing that doesn’t rub on your rashes will help make them itch less.
- Soak your hands and feet in ice water. Fill a plastic basin with water, plop ice packs in and soak your hands and feet.
- Place ice packs near your feet when you sleep at night. Sounds crazy, but pile some towels near your feet so you don’t ruin your mattress. Then place ice packs so that your feet touch them. Great for when the itching starts up and you have your ice packs right there.
- Apply real aloe vera to your body. My mother-in-law has an aloe plant, so I’d cut those open and apply them on my body. I felt sticky as heck but the coolness felt nice. I’d also boil the leaves, let them cool down, then lay the leaves on my skin.
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I also tried other ways to prevent the itching from escalating. No one can pinpoint whether any of these work, but maybe they helped lessen the itch somehow. Either way, I was willing to try just about anything, including:
- Drinking dandelion root tea
- Eating a low-fat diet
- Drinking lemon water
The most challenging part of cholestasis isn’t even the itch but feeling isolated. I felt so alone. I didn’t know anyone who had it and have never heard of it before. It seemed so petty to feel down about something like a rash. But as anyone who has gone through it can agree, it isn’t just a rash.
And so my biggest advice is to look online for communities of women going through the same thing. I turned to an online cholestasis group and found many women all suffering through the same thing. I also met others who had gone through it and offered advice and help. Having others’ support kept me in a positive disposition, knowing it would all be okay in the end.
Along with finding a group, turn to your family and friends. Watch funny movies together. Order in food so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Draw on your village to help carry you through this madness. Vent away. I also wrote in my journal, spewing whatever honest thoughts I had. Writing has always been my therapy.
For every miserable day and sleepless night, I reminded myself I’m giving my babies one more day to grow. Knowing all this madness was would end with two babies was the most effective coping method I could find.
Get more tips:
- When Did You Know You Were Done Having Kids?
- How to Stay Positive When Times Are Tough
- 10 Baby Items You Don’t Really Need
- When You Feel Guilty about Adding to the Family
- Scared to Breastfeed? Try These Tips!
For those going through cholestasis, what are your biggest struggles?