Liver complications can occur during pregnancy for a variety of reasons including preexisting liver problems or new liver problems that develop post-pregnancy. In the former category, there are some liver diseases that are specific to only pregnancies. Failure of the liver to perform new functions can put a strain on the mother’s body. Though there are treatments available, the best cure is to deliver the baby.
The following liver diseases are specific to pregnancy:
Acute fatty liver is a disorder that can occur during the latter stages of pregnancy. Along with preeclampsia, symptoms of the disorder include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, increased urination and thirst, jaundice, lethargy, fatigue, and a change in mental status. Acute renal failure is also a common symptom. Lab findings typically include low blood sugar, low platelet count, increased liver enzymes, and infiltration of fats in the liver.
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a condition that can happen to first-time and second-time mothers-to-be. ICP is marked by itching and, in some cases, mild jaundice. These usually show up during the last trimester of pregnancy. With ICP, the flow of bile gets disrupted. That build-up of bile in the blood causes itching and, rarely, jaundice. One symptom of this disorder is severe itching on the body, especially on the palms and soles. Other symptoms may include dark urine, fatigue, loss of appetite, mild depression, and nausea.
Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, and Low Platelets Syndrome is a disorder that usually occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy. It can also occur after delivery. This disorder usually occurs in women who have preeclampsia though it can also occur in women who do not have a history of high blood pressure. The signs and symptoms include epigastric pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, visual changes, weight gain, jaundice, pulmonary edema, ascites or acute renal failure.
Hepatic rupture is a serious but relatively rare condition that can occur in pregnant women. It is most commonly associated with preeclampsia, eclampsia, acute fatty liver disease, HELLP syndrome, hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatic adenoma, and hepatic abscess. Studies have shown that the right lobe of the liver is more commonly affected than the left lobe. Symptoms of hepatic rupture include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, abdominal distension, and hypovolemic shock.
Portal hypertension is increased blood pressure in the portal vein system. It is caused by blockage in the liver, which results in an enlarged spleen. This can happen due to alcoholic cirrhosis. Portal hypertension can cause a number of problems, including variceal hemorrhage, hepatic encephalopathy, postpartum hemorrhage, hepatic failure, rupture of splenorenal shunts, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and death.
Viral hepatitis is a type of infection that can target the liver and occur at any stage during pregnancy. There are several types of viral hepatitis that a mother can suffer from, including types A, B, C, D and E.
Budd-Chiari syndrome is a rare condition that’s caused by blockages in the hepatic veins. These blockages can be due to things like blood clots or other non-thrombotic obstructions. Many cases of Budd-Chiari syndrome are associated with the use of contraceptives. Symptoms of this disorder are usually acute and can include things like abdominal pain, hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver), and ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen).