'What’s wrong?’ asked my husband Mark, 43, seeing me scratching away at myself.
‘I’m so itchy,’ I said. ‘I must be allergic to something.’
I was 18 weeks along with my first baby and had become itchy on my stomach, arms and sides.
Soon, it was so bad I was scratching myself raw and my skin was peeling off. I couldn’t sleep so I went to my doctor, who ordered blood tests.
‘You’ve got a condition called ICP, or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy,’ he told me.
‘It’s a rare disease caused by your pregnancy hormones. They affect the liver metabolism resulting in an increased concentration of bile acids in the blood. That’s what’s causing your skin to itch.’
It’s like I’m allergic to my baby, I thought, stunned.
Worryingly, the condition could cause other complications, such as pre-eclampsia – where pregnant women have high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and premature labour.
I just want my baby to be okay, I thought.
So, on my doctor’s advice, I signed up for the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute study into the disease as they were trialling medication.
I ended up being the first of 108 women participating in the four-year global trial.
And I learnt that with ICP there was a three-fold increased risk of foetal distress and most frightening of all, unexpected stillbirth.
In some cases the terrible itching severely affected women’s mental health.
Trialling two different medications, the combination worked and to my relief the itchiness stopped.
The rest of my pregnancy went off without a hitch.
And in February, I gave birth to Demi, a beautiful baby girl weighing 2.65 kilos.
Three months on, we’re both doing really well.
Now I hope that my experience will help others with the condition. ●