This is a condition unique to pregnancy. It is a disorder of the liver causing excessive itching mainly of the hands and feet. It usually, but not always, develops in the last third of pregnancy and can cause difficulty in sleeping, depression and tiredness.
The liver is the largest organ in your body performing many important functions such as processing food from your digestive system, producing bile to break down fat, storing vitamins and iron, detoxifying drugs and alcohol and combating infection.
In obstetric cholestasis there is a reduction of flow of bile from your liver, though why this occurs is unclear. This reduction in bile flow leads to excessive bile salts accumulating in your circulation causing itching.
Cholestasis affects approximately one pregnancy out of every 160 in the UK. There is also a higher occurrence in the winter months and in multiple pregnancies.