Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treatment for cholestasis of pregnancy aims to relieve itching and prevent complications.

Relieving itching

To soothe intense itching, your pregnancy care provider may recommend:

  • Taking the prescription medication ursodiol (Actigall, Urso), which helps decrease the level of bile in the mother's bloodstream, relieves itchiness and may reduce complications for the baby
  • Soaking itchy areas in lukewarm water

You might be tempted to take an antihistamine or use an anti-itch (corticosteroid) cream to relieve the intense itching associated with this condition. Antihistamines are often ineffective and may pose risks to your developing baby. And if they do work, you may not feel the need to see your pregnancy care provider, delaying effective diagnosis and treatment. Corticosteroid creams and lotions don't work to relieve the itching of cholestasis of pregnancy. In addition, using too much corticosteroid cream may pose a risk to the baby.

Preventing complications

Because complications related to the baby's health can be serious, your pregnancy care provider may recommend close monitoring of your baby during pregnancy. Measures your pregnancy care provider might take include:

  • Nonstress tests and biophysical profile scores. These tests help monitor your baby's well-being. During a nonstress test, your pregnancy care provider will check how often your baby moves in a certain period of time and how much his or her heart rate increases with movement. The biophysical profile provides information regarding the volume of amniotic fluid, as well as fetal muscle tone and activity. While these tests can be reassuring, they can't really predict the risk of preterm birth or other complications associated with cholestasis of pregnancy.
  • Early induction of labor. Even if the prenatal tests appear normal, your pregnancy care provider may suggest inducing labor early — around 37 weeks or so. Because it's hard to predict when fetal death might occur, early delivery is sometimes the best and only way to prevent complications.
Aug. 16, 2014