Fetal mortality associated with cholestasis of pregnancy and the potential benefit of therapy with ursodeoxycholic acid.
Cholestasis of pregnancy is associated with increased fetal morbidity and mortality and should be treated actively. The significance attached to pruritus in pregnancy is often minimal, but it is a cardinal symptom of cholestasis of pregnancy, which may have no other clinical features. Eight women with previous cholestasis of pregnancy were referred to The Liver Unit within a 12 month period for advice concerning future pregnancies. Thirteen pregnancies had been affected by cholestasis of pregnancy and 12 had been treated expectantly with resultant perinatal morbidity or mortality in 11 (one normal delivery), including; eight stillbirths, two premature deliveries with fetal distress (one died in perinatal period), and an emergency caesarean section for fetal distress. The other pregnancy was treated actively and delivery was uncomplicated. Subsequently, three of these cases with recurrent cholestasis of pregnancy were referred while pregnant. In each, cholestasis developed with severe pruritus, gross increase of serum bile acids, and deranged liver tests. Each was treated with the choleretic agent ursodeoxycholic acid, with rapid clinical improvement and resolution of deranged biochemistry. In conclusion, cholestasis of pregnancy continues to be treated expectantly despite its association with increased morbidity and mortality and evidence suggesting improved prognosis with active treatment and the potential of reducing the associated perinatal mortality. In an uncontrolled series of three patients with cholestasis of pregnancy, ursodeoxycholic acid seemed to provide safe and effective therapy.