Suffering from cholestasis or itch-related complications? Learn 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.
You see, a woman carrying twins at 32 weeks is already as large as a woman carrying a singleton at 40 weeks. In other words, twin moms are ready to pop but still have to grow for two more months. Not fun.
And, as if I couldn’t get more uncomfortable with my size, I got hit with a diagnosis of obstetric cholestasis.
What is cholestasis of pregnancy?
Few people know about cholestasis, including myself 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 exact causes of cholestasis, but many point to liver disorder and a high level of bile acids. Rising pregnancy hormones can also slow the normal flow of bile, causing its salts to enter the bloodstream, which leads to itching. Genes can also play a role.
There is no medication. The only “cure” for the symptoms of cholestasis is a preterm delivery of the baby (or babies) no later than 37 weeks. A prolonged pregnancy can lead to increased risk and complications for the unborn baby, from slight to devastating.
As if I wasn’t itchy enough, I also came down with PUPPPs, another itch-related pregnancy complication. (What is it with me and itches?) PUPPPs has nothing to do with cholestasis but was something I was unlucky to have as well.
So, not only did I itch on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, but the rest of my body too. Unlike cholestasis, PUPPPs has no ill effect on the baby, but is just as difficult for the mother.
How bad is it? Imagine having a bug bite. You know how those bites sting and itch like crazy? Now imagine thousands of those all over your body. All while at the end of your pregnancy and dealing with a toddler.
How to cope with cholestasis of pregnancy
For those going through cholestasis or PUPPPs, I feel you.
Trust me when I say I was also online, searching for a treatment for cholestasis. Something to help me get more than an hour of sleep a night and stop feeling depressed. To see the light at the end of the tunnel and stay positive during a difficult pregnancy.
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.
I also found a few ways to make the days not feel so terrible. These didn’t cure me so much as give me an hour or two of relief before it started all over again. At least I had a bit of control, no matter how small, and the feeling that I was doing something to help.
Here are a few coping methods and home remedies for cholestasis of pregnancy and PUPPPs:
1. Soak in lukewarm or cool water
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A simple way to find temporary relief is to sit in a bath, as often as two or three times a day. Soak in the tub for as long as possible, if only to prevent yourself from scratching. The water will also relax your mind and help you take your mind off of things.
I also suggest adding oatmeal to your baths. Don’t use traditional oatmeal, as these might not drain properly. I really liked the Aveeno packets.
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2. Take cool showers
The worst part of cholestasis was definitely at night. You’re trying to fall (and stay) asleep, but you’ll wake up and find you’d been scratching yourself.
When you’re frustrated at yet another sleepless night, hop in the shower. Let the cool water numb your body and provide a tinge of relief. Do be careful about scrubbing, though—avoid loofahs or anything that will agitate your rashes.
After your shower, sit in front of a fan to cool your body heat down.
3. Apply anti-itch lotion
Most anti-itch lotions and creams work for smaller inflammations like bug bites and poison ivy. Still, feel free to slather on these lotions for a bit of cool relief. Sarna is a popular one among sufferers. Store the lotion in the refrigerator for extra cooling relief.
4. Use tar soap
When I was researching coping methods for cholestasis, I’d often 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. Here’s a popular tar soap brand.
5. Wear loose clothing
At this late stage in your pregnancy (especially if a twin one), you likely have no choice but to wear loose clothing. Tight clothes make you feel more constricted and itchy and doesn’t allow your skin to breathe.
If need be, buy the biggest maternity tops you can find. Choose loose clothing that doesn’t rub on your rashes to help them itch less.
6. Soak your hands and feet in ice water
Want to numb your hands and feet? One trick is to soak them in ice water. Fill a plastic basin with water and add ice cubes or ice packs like these. You can then soak your hands and feet for a few minutes to relieve severe itching.
You can even place the ice packs near your feet when you sleep at night. Pile towels near your feet so you don’t ruin your mattress, then place ice packs so that your feet touch them.
7. Apply real aloe vera to your body
My mother-in-law has an aloe plant, so I’d refrigerate them, cut them open, and apply them on my body. It felt sticky, but the coolness was a nice relief. I’d also boil the leaves, let them cool down, then lay the leaves on my skin.
8. Drink dandelion root tea
Fellow moms swore by dandelion root tea to prevent the itching from escalating. I was willing to try just about anything, and adding dandelion root to my regular tea consumption was an easy step.
Besides dandelion root tea, fellow moms also drank lemon water and ate a low-fat diet to lessen the itching.
The most challenging part of cholestasis isn’t even the itch, but the feeling of isolation. You feel so alone. Few people have heard of it, much less can relate. It seemed so petty to feel down about a rash of all things. But as anyone who has gone through cholestasis or PUPPPs can agree, it isn’t just a rash.
And so, my biggest advice is to look online for communities going through the same thing. I turned to an online cholestasis group and found many women in the same shoes. Offer your own advice and help. Having others’ support will keep you positive, knowing it will all be okay in the end.
Along with finding a group, turn to your family and friends. Watch funny movies together and order in food so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Draw on your village to help carry you through this madness. And write in a journal, spewing whatever honest thoughts you have.
And for every miserable day and sleepless night, remind yourself that you’re giving your baby one more day to grow. Knowing all this will end with your baby is the most effective coping method of all.
Get more tips:
- 10 Baby Items You Don’t Really Need
- Second Child Guilt: When You Feel Guilty about Adding to the Family
- Scared to Breastfeed? Try These Tips!
- How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy
- Signs That You’re in Labor with Twins
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