Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy Follow-up

Updated: Jan 14, 2019
  • Author: Fidelma B Rigby, MD; Chief Editor: Ronald M Ramus, MD  more...
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Further Outpatient Care

Patients with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) should have regular antenatal testing (starting at 32-34 weeks) with consideration for Doppler flow studies of the umbilical artery.



The recurrence rate for ICP is believed to be 45-70%. [16] In patients with a history of ICP, oral contraceptives containing estrogen should be used with caution and at the lowest possible dose. Exogenous estrogen in these patients can lead to cholestasis outside of pregnancy. Conversely, patients who exhibit cholestasis with the use of OCPs should be evaluated for ICP during pregnancy.

The past consensus has been that ICP is a contraindication for OCP use. However, some authors suggest that the newer low-dose pills can be safely used as long as liver function test results are followed and patients are aware of possible recurrence risks. [79]

For all patients with ICP, serum bile acid levels and liver function tests should be drawn 3-6 months postpartum. If bile acid levels remain elevated at 6 months’ postpartum, further evaluation is indicated to rule out an underlying genetic disorder or chronic liver disease. There is no data about the advisability of monitoring patients with a history of ICP during subsequent pregnancies. As recurrence rates are high for ICP, especially those with a genetic predisposition, the authors recommend a baseline bile acid level and liver enzymes and repeat levels if symptoms occur. Patients should be closely monitored for pruritus throughout pregnancy and UDCA should be initiated at the first signs of ICP even prior to receipt of the laboratory results. 



ICP presents greater risk to the fetus than to the mother. [80] ICP increases the rate of preterm delivery with the associated mortality and morbidity. In addition, the fetus is at an increased risk for stillbirth. The major concern for the mother is for postpartum hemorrhage if her vitamin K level is low, leading to an increase in prothrombin time.