Mystery Pregnancy Illness?

In 2006, I found out I was pregnant. While not exactly planned, the then-husband and I were, like many other couples, extremely excited. Being a mere two weeks in, I immediately quit smoking, coffee, aspartame, and all that other stuff. But perhaps this is beyond the point.

It wasn’t long before I started itching. At first it was only right beneath my breasts. Figuring it was my bra, I bought new ones that did not have underwires. It was not long, however, before the itching began to spread. I don’t recall how long it was but it was at most 1 month in before my entire body was itching head to toe.

To someone that has not experienced what I am talking about, this may sound like a minor nuisance. That was not the case (I’d take having the Chicken Pox over this any day). Before I knew it, every inch of my body was itching, 24 hours per day, without a single moment’s reprieve.

I could not sleep. I could not bear sitting at work. I could not find any position to relieve the itching or make it stop. Everything–from my hands to my back to my stomach to my head–was itching around the clock.

Naturally, it was enough to make me do a google search on “pregnancy, itching”. I came across a page describing a very rare condition called “cholestasis of pregnancy” which included all of my symptoms–namely, this intolerable itching. The page, featuring testimonials by other women who had suffered through this, even stated that for some women, the itching had gotten so bad that they had even contemplated suicide.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, cholestasis of pregnancy is caused by ” Pregnancy hormones [which] affect gallbladder function, resulting in slowing or stopping the flow of bile. The gallbladder holds bile that is produced in the liver, which is necessary in the breakdown of fats in digestion. When the bile flow is stopped or slowed down, this causes a build up of bile acids in the liver which can spill into the bloodstream.” And while a handful of other symptoms are listed, incessant itching seems to be the predominant one.

The only problem was: I was in my first trimester. And Cholestasis of Pregnancy is not known to hit until the third. I scoured the internet, in vain, for even one single case of Cholestasis during the first trimester and came up empty-handed.

My ob-gyn appointment was far from helpful. It was clear the practitioner had no idea what was going on. To rule out the prospect of some bizarre early “cholestasis”, my bile levels were checked, and while at the maximum of healthy bile levels, I was ruled clear of having this disorder.

I was referred to a dermatologist who, after spending an entire 2 1/2 minutes with me, told me to wash with unscented natural soaps and so forth.

I knew that was not the issue, but out of desperation, I tried it nonetheless–switching soaps, staying clear of any type of unnatural body wash and what have you–and nothing helped even remotely.

Approximately two months in, around 10 pm one night, I noticed the itching finally stopped. It was the biggest physical relief of my life yet I had a feeling why. I rolled over and tapped my then-husband on the shoulder. Half asleep, he murmured something like “what?”

“I think the baby’s gone,” I said.

A series of pregnancy tests over the next few days confirmed my suspicions, and approximately a week later, I had a natural miscarriage.

Afraid to become pregnant again, to this day I wonder: What was this bizarre affliction the doctors–even specialists–knew nothing about, much less were able to monitor or fix? Clearly connected to my pregnancy, I hope that one day more becomes known about this.

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