Dig a Little Deeper: One Mom’s Battle with Obstetric Cholestasis

by For Two Fitness March 09, 2012

Once again, here’s our guest blogger Hollie, who fortunately has had her baby and is no longer suffering as she describes below. Read on to learn more about a challenging condition of pregnancy, and be inspired!


Dig a Little Deeper
I have noticed, out in the blogosphere and on various social media outlets, that there are basically two kinds of sharers. The first kind shares only the positive in his/her life. Status updates include messages about how cute their kids are, the great work-out they just completed and the extremely tasty yet oh-so-healthy meal they made from scratch…with accompanying pictures. The second type of sharer is the constantly negative, ever-so-klutzy, “why is life so hard?” kind.
My generally sunny disposition coupled with a patent need for accolades (I am a desperate front row student) finds me leaning toward the former. But lately my posts have been a bit more realistic trending towards downright depressing. By way of example, a recent post I wrote on Facebook said; “I feel like cutting myself open and bleeding out all the misery to be honest.”
Rest assured I am NOT suicidal so maybe a little background information will help understand what I meant. And believe me I meant it!


I suffer from a rare (1 to 2 pregnancies out of 1000) although not unheard of liver disease that occurs during pregnancy known as Obstetric Cholestasis (OC) or Intrrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP). The disease which typically shows up during the last trimester of pregnancy, though it can start earlier, is caused by the increased amount of hormones a woman’s body produces while pregnant. The liver which normally processes bile acids created by the body is unable to perform this function causing those bile acids to be sent through the blood stream. The major symptom of OC is itching. Now itching at first hearing may sound relatively mild but this is no ordinary itch. This is an “I want to run steak knives up and down my skin until I bleed, my skin is on fire, even my eyeballs itch,” type of itching. Bonus: because the itching is in the blood stream it cannot generally be treated topically with much success and I literally do scratch until I bleed and bruise.
Other symptoms include:
  • Depression-check
  • Upper right quadrant pain-check
  • Nausea-check
  • Sleep deprivation-double check (I am writing this at 1:30 a.m.)
OC or ICP is considered a high-risk pregnancy because, in addition to the physical/mental anguish it causes the mother (and I say anguish without hyperbole), it can have very harmful consequenses for the unborn baby including low-birth weight, cranial hemorrhaging, premature and still birth. Most doctors recommend early delivery at around 36-37 weeks.
My two previous babies born while I had this condition were 32 weeks, weighing in at 4 lbs. 6 oz., and 36 weeks, weighing in at 5 lbs. 12 oz.
So here I am at almost 33 weeks, in the throes of misery, just managing to survive and I am sure you are wondering why I am sharing this on a site dedicated to fit pregnancies.
Here’s why:
As a dancer and as a marathoner (albeit a slow one) I have learned a lot about physical and mental suffering. I know what it is like to dance for hours on pointe shoes with toes bloody and raw only to be asked to do it “full-out” one more time. I know what it is like to run 20 miles and still have 6.2 to go. In short, I know what it is like to be asked to dig a little deeper to make it to the end.
Pregnancy is hard even in the best of circumstances. It most certainly challenges us both physically and mentally and most definitely emotionally. The things we learn as fit women and active mothers can help teach us that we can, indeed, dig a little deeper. Certainly a well-rehearsed ballet is a thing of beauty. Crossing a marathon or even a 5k finish line is euphoric bordering on orgiastic. How much greater then is the feeling of delivering a healthy happy baby?
So despite my melodramatic social media postings, I am hanging in there, trying to give my baby girl the longest possible time for growth before she joins us in the world. Skin itching and bleeding, sleep-deprived and stressed to the max, I am digging deeper because I know I can and so can you.
To learn more about Obstetric Cholestasis visit www.itchymoms.com

Hollie Reina is a 32 year old freelance journalist and full-time mother of three.  She lives in southern California and is a marathoner and would-be triathlete (her half-ironman plans are on pause due to this recent pregnancy) with a passion for the outdoors, running, cycling.  In fact, she was once a professional hiking and mountain biking guide for two fancy outdoorsy spas in Utah. Follow her on twitter at @hikingholsford.


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