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Mother's Itch During Pregnancy Nearly Fatal For Her Baby

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A mother of three is working to increase awareness for a condition that can be deadly to an infant.

Hilary Boyer didn't know what to do when she started experiencing intense itching when she was about 20 weeks into her pregnancy.

"This overwhelming itch on my feet and I felt like I was losing my mind and so I did it. I dug in with my fingernails and scratched as hard as I could," Boyer said.

Hilary scratched quite a bit of skin off parts of her feet, and she needed to get medical help immediately.

"He was born and I remember praying 'Please come out screaming' and there was nothing. There was just silence," Boyer said.

Hilary's baby wasn't breathing. Little Lucas needed to be airlifted to Children's Hospital.

"I saw him and I started crying because i hadn't even got to touch him yet," Boyer said. "And then just before he left, he opened his eyes just one little slit and I got to see his eyes for just one second before he was gone."

That was two years ago, and now Lucas is a healthy little boy despite his close call with a disorder known as Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy, or ICP.

ICP is more common than Hilary thought. At least one in every 1,000 pregnancies experience the symptoms like the intense itching.

"I knew that that wasn't normal, intentionally scratching your skin off. There's a sign that there's something wrong," Boyer said.

Hilary called her sister, who was studying to be a doctor at the time.

"It's a condition in the liver that blocks the flow of bile acids out of the liver and some other compounds too. That can lead to an accumulation of chemicals that can be toxic to the pregnancy," her sister said.

Once it's diagnosed with a simple blood test, medicine can be used for treatment. The mother usually recovers, but the baby can be at risk for still birth.

Hilary Boyer Itchy Mother
(credit: Hilary Boyer)

Boyer said he was on breathing support for about 24 hours, then he was breathing on his own. Hilary said she wants other mothers to know the symptoms of ICP and get help from their doctors.

"And now he's here so it was all worth it in the end," Boyer said.

ICP is most common in Latina women and those with Scandanavian heritage.

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