It is very important to diagnose the causes of liver pain during pregnancy since failure to do so may be harmful for both the mother-to-be as well as the fetus. This article discusses the various liver problems faced by pregnant women along with the available treatment options.
There can be several reasons for the occurrence of liver problems during pregnancy. One of the reasons can be the pressure exerted by the growing womb on the nearby organs. However, persistent pain and discomfort in the abdominal region, especially in the upper right side may be a cause of concern, as it may be an indication of a liver disorder. Therefore, it is essential to visit a gynecologist for a prompt diagnosis and treatment. Any changes in the body should be reported as soon as possible to the health care provider to avoid unwanted complications.
Liver Problems During Pregnancy
Expectant mothers may experience liver pain during the term of their pregnancy. The pain may range from being mild to severe. It may arise due to the presence of some underlying disorder of the liver. Following are some common liver problems that pregnant women may experience:
Acute Fatty Liver (AFL)
Though rare in nature, this condition is caused due to the buildup of fat molecules on the liver tissue. This occurs during the third trimester and may cause complications which may end up in liver and kidney failure, and prove to be life-threatening. The symptoms of this condition may include dull ache in the right side of the abdominal region which becomes severe with time, nausea-induced vomiting, jaundice, and intense headache. The symptoms of this disorder may subside after the child has been delivered. Women may also be on the path of complete recovery after childbirth.
Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)
This disorder is caused due to the abnormal levels of bile. The liver produces more than required amount of bile, which increases the level of bile acids in the blood. The symptoms of this condition are dark-colored urine, traces of blood in stool, anxiety and extreme fatigue, etc. This condition can also give rise to severe itching, which may result in abrasions on the skin caused due to scratching. This disorder also increases the risk of preterm labor, meconium staining during childbirth, and in some cases, death of the baby.
HELLP is an acronym for Hemolysis or the breakdown of the red blood cells, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelet count. This condition is characterized by a rise in the liver enzymes and a drop in the platelet count. There are several risks associated with this disorder such as liver failure, bleeding problems, and stroke, etc. In case of placental abruption, which can prove fatal for the baby, premature delivery is opted to save the lives of both the mother and child. A blood test can confirm the presence of this disorder in the body. Feeling unwell all the time, sudden weight gain due to fluid retention, swelling in the legs, blurry vision, body ache, etc., are some of the symptoms of HELLP syndrome.
Hepatitis, or viral hepatitis, caused due to hepatitis B virus can lead to jaundice, abdominal pain and discomfort, fever, loss of appetite, and severe fatigue in pregnant women. Though caused by three strains of virus: hepatitis A, B, and C, hepatitis B virus is considered to be more harmful than the other two. Unfortunately, this hepatitis infection can also be passed to the child from the infected mother. In the absence of treatment, this can lead to a liver disease followed by organ failure and finally liver cancer, which can prove to be fatal.
This is a complication which develops during the late second or early third trimester. An increase in the liver enzymes can lead to the swelling of the liver. Such women may experience abnormally high-blood pressure. This disorder is also characterized by an increase in the protein levels in the urine, a condition referred to as proteinuria. It can cause damage to the liver if the protein accumulates in the tissue, choking it. A failure to provide timely treatment can pose a serious threat to the lives of the mother and the baby.
Liver pain during pregnancy can be treated with the help of pain killers which can help alleviate the pain and discomfort of the abdominal region. Medicines such as ursodeoxycholic acid may be prescribed to decrease the concentration of bile acids caused due to intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. Sometimes, the solution to address these problems may lie in delivering the baby, especially in HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia. The physician may also prescribe certain medications to treat the symptoms and regulate the function of the liver. Sometimes, hospitalization may be required based on the severity of the symptoms.
If liver pain is left untreated or if the treatment suffers a lapse, it can turn into a complication which may take time to get cured, or worse, even result in death. Regular monitoring of your health with a gynecologist or obstetrician will help diagnose and treat unwanted problems in the early stages.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.