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Pregnant woman’s Facebook post on ‘intense’ itching may have saved her child’s life

Christina DePino was diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy after she felt intense itching.

More than halfway through her pregnancy, Christina DePino began to notice an itch.

Thinking it was just normal pregnancy itching, the 28-year-old Michigan woman ignored it. But as weeks went by, inching closer and closer to her due date, DePino says the itch started to become more “intense.”

“The itching that started out on my arms and legs, began to become more pronounced on the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet,” she tells Global News.

“It was worse at night. The itching would be so intense that I would wake up and not be able to go back to sleep.”

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At 34 weeks pregnant, the dental treatment coordinator went on Facebook and shared her concerns. At first, she ignored people’s suggestions to get help. And when it got worse, she wrote another update.

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“I posted again on Facebook saying that I just wanted to peel my skin off! Nothing would help the itching,” she says. 

DePino’s sister-in-law, who is a nurse, suggested she research intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), a condition that affects the mother’s liver and could lead to a possible still birth.

“At that point I was 35 weeks pregnant and read that induction is usually recommended by 37 weeks. So I contacted my doctor right away and went in for the blood tests,” she continued.

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Doctors diagnosed DePino with cholestasis and induced labour at 37 weeks. When she received the news, DePino says she was relieved.

“[I was relieved] that my doctor had taken my concerns seriously and that my instincts were correct.”

She gave birth to a healthy baby girl on March 28 named Lexa Rae.

Lexa Rae
Lexa Rae was born healthy at 37 weeks. Christina DePino

“As soon as I was holding my beautiful baby girl in my arms, all I could think was, ‘What if? What if I had not complained on Facebook? What if no one had told me?'”

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When does an itch become a serious issue?

Health experts say ICP affects up to one per cent of pregnant women in the U.S., Women’s Health magazine reports. The percentage is the same in Canada.

Symptoms include itching, of course, which can be caused by your skin stretching overtime, Baby Center notes. Doctors will also look for signs of jaundice — the yellowing of your skin and eyes.

But not all itchy pregnant women have the condition.

“There are other much simpler events during pregnancy that can lead to itching,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine, told Women’s Health.

“Bottom line: don’t panic, check in with your provider,” she said. “If it is indeed cholestasis, you and your baby will be monitored, and the baby delivered as soon as delivery is indicated.”

Raising awareness on the itch

After DePino’s Facebook post vent viral, she says she knew she had to let other expecting mothers know the risk.

“I didn’t want any of them to ever have to wonder what had happened to their perfectly healthy baby.”

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DePino adds one issue with ICP is that because it is so rare, some healthcare providers may write it off as a normal part of pregnancy.

Christina DePino
Christina DePino and her newborn baby. Christina DePino

“I would like to urge pregnant women who are suffering from severe itching to be their own advocate, know the signs and symptoms, then contact your doctor and get the blood test right away.”

She now works with a community of women to raise awareness about ICP, and hopes one day testing for the condition will be a standard for all pregnant women.

The overwhelming experience of being a mother

DePino, who has been a mother for just over a week now says motherhood feels like a “dream.”

“When the doctor office called about her one week appointment, they said ‘Is this Lexa’s mom?’ It took me a minute to respond, and I was like, “Oh yeah! I’m a mom now!’ It’s a joy like nothing I’ve ever experienced and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us as a family.”

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Christina DePino family
Christina DePino, her husband Aaron and baby Lexa Rae. Christina DePino