Laura’s story starts 5 weeks before baby Kate was born when she was diagnosed with Obstetric cholestasis. Now, I had a blood test for Obstetric cholestasis towards the end of my pregnancy because I was suffering from the mega itch. I’d heard you can get itchy when you’re pregnant but I had no idea it was also a symptom of a serious illness during pregnancy. There I was moaning to my midwife about my nightly itch fest and before I knew it she’d stuck a needle in my arm to test my blood! Turned out my itchiness was just a bubble bath I wasn’t used to (ironic as I was taking more baths to sooth the itching!), but Laura wasn’t so lucky. She explains what Obstetric cholestasis is perfectly so I won’t spoil it, here’s Laura’s Birth Story…

Obstetric cholestasis during pregnancy and childbirth

I told everyone that I was really flexible about my birth plan but what that really meant is that I wanted to be in the Birth Centre. This would mean a mid-wife led birth, with minimal pain medication BUT a centre which has been likened to giving birth in a 5 star hotel. En-suite rooms, each with its own birth pool, aromatherapy unit and iPod dock! Needless to say things did not go to plan…

About a month before I was due I started to feel really itchy. I gave it maybe a day or so but I felt I was losing my mind and was in real danger of scratching my skin off! At the point that the soles of my feet began to itch I decided I would ring the midwife at the hospital and ask if there was any reason I could be itching so badly. She was fantastic and said to come in that day but suggested that if I waited a few hours, I wouldn’t have to wait around at the hospital and they would see me immediately on arrival. Super!

That evening I had blood tests, which showed an increased level of bile acid in my blood stream and was diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis. That basically meant that instead of flowing into my liver the bile acid was building up in my blood steam causing INSANE itching.

Obstetric cholestasis has been linked to still birth but I didn’t worry as the staff at the hospital were very reassuring. That night I had a scan, which showed that Kate was perfect and after a quick check the doctor pronounced that she was certain I wouldn’t go to full term so tried a sweep.

They shifted my care from my local midwife and said they needed to see me three times a week but to come in if the itching increased. They wanted to monitor the level of bile acid in my blood stream, monitor Kate’s heart rate/movement and would induce if it reached a level that could possibly harm Kate.

The next few weeks were unbearable. I knew that Kate was fine but I wasn’t. I couldn’t sleep from itching, I was being sick from exhaustion and I was really beginning to worry how I would have the energy to give birth. The midwifes at the hospital kept arguing that I should be induced but the consultant kept saying that the level of acid wasn’t high enough to warrant that. The compromise was sweeps – lots of them.

I had been told I would need a monitored birth at the hospital (so there went any visions of the posh centre). I also was growing incredibly fed up of the hospital and was certain that I would rather give birth in a field!

It was finally agreed that I would be induced on September 15th – 5 days before my due date but they would try one final sweep on the 13th. Happily, as I was playing Nintendo wii with my step son on the 14th I felt a gush! Off to the hospital we went for them to check and at the moment I was pulling my trousers down… more gushing… movie style all over the floor! My OCD husband then began to try and mop up whilst the midwife cracked up laughing saying my waters had definitely broken. But after ascertaining that contractions weren’t close enough together yet I was sent home with the advice to bare it out as much as I could.

So home I went to Black Books (little book of calm?!), my gym ball and stuffed crust pizza. I tried a bath but felt like a beached whale so settled for doing squats with the delusional idea that the action might help shift her. Incidentally, I was still itchy.

At 1am my husband decided to take me back in. I was 4cm so was taken straight to the labour ward and put on a remote monitor. I said I didn’t want any pain meds as I didn’t want to be sick and after a puff I found gas and air weird and awkward. But after another 2 hours I was exhausted and the midwife convinced me that I should have an injection that would then send me sky high. I then slept between contractions and lectures on orchestral pieces, spiders, the existence of God and generally swearing like a trooper – what a selection!

By 9 am I was 6cm and was told it would be a long while yet so I asked for an epidural. The anaesthetist came and gave me two different tubes but I was insisting that it wasn’t working. In fact I got a whole lot more moody (and rude!) and said that I wanted to push instead. My midwife had a quick check and it turned out that I had gone to the full 10cm really quickly and that the whole epidural thing had been too late. They also couldn’t give me more of the sky high stuff so I was left with gas, air and vomit.

The midwife said that there was still a lip so I shouldn’t push but told me I was doing really well. I told her she was paid to say that, and possibly swore a wee bit more, so she went and got some reinforcements!! By this point I was also sick of wearing a monitor so they tried to clip one to Kate’s head, which kept falling off. The reinforcement midwife, upon clipping it on a second time, said if I wanted to push I could give it a go. So I did. She was very shocked as she announced the head!

5 minutes later at 10.22am I was holding my darling baby girl. After spending so much time at the hospital I was home by 8pm… no longer itching!

Obstetric cholestasis

Perfect little non-itchy baby feet!

Thank you Laura! The itching sounds like hell on earth, you poor thing! And, fascinating that it went as soon as you had baby Kate. It’s great that despite becoming high risk and highly monitored that ultimately your birth could be considered a good one, whilst simultaneously taking on the greatest questions in life: the existence of god and spiders.

I’m feeling all itchy now…

Did you have Obstetric Cholestasis (like Laura) or severe itching (like me!) during pregnancy? What was yours caused by?