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What Are the Possible Complications of Jaundice in Pregnancy?

Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The complications of jaundice in pregnancy are largely due to the underlying causes of this condition. Some of the complications that may arise include a mother’s dangerously high blood pressure, damage to a woman’s kidneys, a premature delivery and stillbirth. A pregnant woman with jaundice may develop gallstones and experience fluid retention. Developmental complications in the fetus may also occur. Liver failure due to a buildup of fat on that organ may also be a complication that leads to the development of jaundice and may result in doctors performing an emergency delivery.

Most often, jaundice in pregnancy is due to hepatitis or a condition known as cholestasis of pregnancy, which is characterized by extreme itching during the third pregnancy trimester. Jaundice during pregnancy may also be caused by pre-eclampsia, which is characterized by protein in a woman’s urine as well as a rise in blood pressure. While jaundice during pregnancy alone does not necessarily trigger complications or present a risk to mother or child, the presence of one of these contributing factors to the development of jaundice may. Treatment options depend upon the underlying cause.

In addition to a woman’s mucus membranes, skin and eyes developing a yellow hue, other symptoms of jaundice may also cause discomfort and concern during pregnancy. These symptoms include depression, fatigue and a noticeable decline in appetite. Some women also experience pain and nausea as a result of developing jaundice in pregnancy.

Cholestasis, one of the more serious underlying causes of jaundice during pregnancy, causes bile to build up in the liver. As a result, an overflow of bile may enter the woman’s bloodstream and cause severe complications, such as an early delivery or a stillbirth. Women with an immediate relative who has had cholestasis during pregnancy as well as women carrying multiple fetuses are at an increased risk for developing this condition, which may also lead to the development of jaundice.

It is common for babies to be born with or develop specific types of jaundice under certain conditions. Two of the most common types are a physiological jaundice, which occurs as a result of the child’s liver not being mature enough to properly process bilirubin, and a type of jaundice that commonly occurs among premature infants. Just as jaundice in pregnancy can be the result of an underlying condition, infants can also be affected by jaundice in this way.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon318190 — On Feb 06, 2013

My wife is suffering from jaundice and she is two months pregnant. What she she should not eat and how should she care for herself?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
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