Jaundice During Pregnancy


Photo by megan lynette on Unsplash

Jaundice during pregnancy is a rare condition, though it can be serious and may require immediate medical attention, so it is good to be aware of the symptoms and risks.

When I was pregnant, morning sickness was the bane of my existence. It started with a queasy feeling, and then escalated to vomiting a couple of times a day, but soon reached a point where I was throwing up six to eight times on several days of every week. In the morning in particular, and sometimes at other times of the day, my vomit would be yellow and sometimes even greenish. Gross, I know. Then, why am I sharing such sordid details?

Well, because, when I read this article about pregnancy jaundice, it got me wondering. Would I have even realized I had it, if I did? The nausea, vomiting, and even the yellow coloration in the vomit symptoms are easily confused with morning sickness. The yellow skin coloration too can be mistaken for paleness due to anemia.

Jaundice from morning sickness

Jaundice during pregnancy can actually be caused by a very severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum which affects less than 2% of pregnant women. This can result in dehydration which can be bad enough to affect liver function, thus causing jaundice.

Jaundice as a symptom during pregnancy

Jaundice usually indicates some problem with the liver. Many of these during pregnancy can be life threatening.

Acute fatty liver

For example jaundice can be an indicator of acute fatty liver a condition occurring in the third trimester of pregnancy or soon after child birth. Earlier this condition was considered to be fatal, but now some aggressive treatment methods can help save the life of the mother. Although there are many symptoms like nausea and abdominal pain, excessive thirst is the first symptom, that does not overlap with normal pregnancy discomfort.


Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy usually occurring after 20 weeks. This condition is not very well understood, but is believed to be a result of abnormal placenta. So the only real treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby. If it is too early for that, then the mother needs to take several precautions for her own safety.

Preeclampsia is typically characterized by elevated levels of systolic blood pressure as well as presence of excess protein in the urine. But in a significant number of cases, protein levels may not be elevated, however preeclampsia should be investigated if there is a sudden increase in blood pressure along with impaired liver function indicated by jaundice.

Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count (HELLP syndrome) is a variant of preeclampsia, that may occur in the third trimester or soon after child birth. This syndrome is associated with serious liver problems, including death of liver cells due to inadequate blood flow and oxygen.

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is also known as jaundice of pregnancy. The most common symptom of ICP is itching but you can find a more comprehensive list of symptoms here. If left untreated ICP can lead to preterm labor, fetal distress and even still birth. ICP typically occurs in the third trimester and it is possible that it is caused by hormones like estrogen and progesterone as well as due to genetic factors.

A big change

Pregnancy is a time when it is difficult to be alert about symptoms, because let's face it, there are a host of them, as our body is going through rapid and dramatic changes. But, because of this very reason, a lot of little things can go wrong.

Although there is no reason to be alarmed, as most people successfully deliver healthy babies and go on to have more, it is a good idea to be careful, and be sure not to miss regular check ups. Many things that can go wrong during pregnancy, can also be prevented, or easily managed, if detected early.

I am thrilled to be participating in the A to Z blogging challenge 2018.


Tags: pregnancy, women, AtoZ Challenge, health