New charity launches to raise OC awareness

A new charity, OC Support has been launched to help raise awareness of the condition obstetric cholestasis, one of the symptoms of which is extreme itching.

New charity launches to raise OC awareness

by Louise-Anne Geddes, Mindful Mum, 7th May 2012

Jenny Chambers set up OC Support in 1991 as a helpline for women who thought they may be suffering from the condition and were looking for information and support.  She herself had suffered from severe itching during all four of her pregnancies. Sadly, she experienced two stillbirths which were attributed to OC. In March 2012, it was officially registered as a charity with three main aims:

  • To provide information and support to people affected by OC
  • To awareness of OC
  • To promote research into OC

What is OC?

Obstetric cholestasis (also known as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, or ICP) affects 1 in 140 women (0.7%, or around 5,000 women) in the UK every year.  According to OC Support, the cause of OC is not fully understood but is ‘likely to be multi-factorial’.

  • Hormones are implicated, as women expecting twins (or more, e.g. triplets) seem to be predisposed towards developing the condition, as are women who have had IVF.
  • The condition has a genetic component, as researchers know that mothers, daughters and sisters of affected women have a higher than average risk of being affected. Research has so far identified several gene mutations involved in OC.
  • The condition appears to have a seasonal trend, with higher numbers in the winter months than in summer, suggesting that environmental factors such as sunlight or diet could be implicated.

Symptoms include:

  • Itching anywhere on the body.  This is typically worse at night time and can vary in severity from mild to so severe that the woman scratches until she breaks the skin and makes herself bleed.
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools

Risks and management

OC Support state that the condition is associated with:

  • Meconium staining of the amniotic fluid.
  • Spontaneous premature labour.
  • Fetal distress.
  • In severe cases, stillbirth (thought to be associated with high bile acid levels).

It is typically treated and managed by: prescribing medication such as ursodeoxycholic acid and, in severe cases, rifampicin, and delivering the baby at around 37–38 weeks.  However, OC Support makes it clear that ‘large trials are still required to validate these as best practice’.

Research and further information

OC Support offers access to research into the condition and a comprehensive library of information regarding the condition, its symptoms and diagnosis which can be accessed here.

Source:  OC Support, 7th May 2012

Photography: Bridget Coila @Flickr

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