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Liver problems during pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most sensitive periods in a woman’s life. Women experience hormonal changes and their body react to these changes in many ways. Because of the hormones, mild medical conditions might become a real threat, to both mother and the unborn child.

Liver problems can also be very serious condition for an expecting mom, because of the potential liver complications. Elevated liver enzymes, abnormal bile flow or just viral infections may affect the liver and cause different health problems in pregnant women.

Liver Problems in Pregnancy

Acute Fatty Liver

The accumulation of the fat in the liver cells may cause fatty liver disorder. Women having this disorder usually suffer from serious headaches, associated with abdominal pain and vomiting. Patients experiencing high jaundice levels are found to be at risk of developing this condition, also. Acute fatty liver is a rare medical condition, but it may further complicate and lead to the failure of the liver or kidneys.


Hepatitis viruses A, B and C are the known causes of hepatitis (liver inflammation). Yellowing of the skin and eyes (also known as jaundice) are the most common symptoms of hepatitis. Other symptoms include: extreme tiredness, lack of appetite and abdominal problems. Hepatitis B virus can be transferred from the mother to the unborn child, and the risk varies from 20 to 90%.

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)

ICP is usually caused with the problems in bile flow and the accumulation of acids. This is one of the most common liver problems in pregnant women, and the women suffering from this condition suffer from itching, rashes, and tiredness and anxiety attacks. Physical symptoms are also obvious, including the jaundice, and changes in the color of the urine and blood in the stool. The unborn baby may also be at risk because of this condition, for it can cause meconium staining, pre-term birth or in extreme cases even death of a child.


Preeclampsia patients experience elevated liver enzymes and liver swelling, and the most recognizable symptom is hypertension (high blood pressure). Most commonly, this condition is diagnosed in the third trimester and it might damage the liver, and also cause seizures, stroke or lead to lethal consequences, compromising the life of both mother and the child.

HELLP Syndrome

HELLP stands for the symptoms of this condition, including: Hemolytic anemia, Elevated liver enzymes and very Low Platelet count in the blood. This form of a preeclampsia is a severe liver problem in pregnant women. It may cause placenta abruption demanding a pre-term delivery of a baby. HELLP can also cause serious problems for the mother, including: stroke, bleeding, or kidney failure. There were also some death cases caused by this syndrome.

Possible Treatments

When it comes to the treatment, a golden rule for pregnant women is to avoid the medications unless the mom’s or the baby’s health are seriously threatened.

Serious health risks are treated with medications: antihistamines for the ICP and vaccination for hepatitis. Preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome and fatty liver can’t be treated and in most cases doctors decide to deliver the baby. If the baby is under 34 weeks old, he/she might be given some medications to mature the lungs and then delivered.

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