This site is intended for healthcare professionals

2630 pages added, reviewed or updated during the last month (last updated: 17/4/2021)

2630 pages added, reviewed or updated during the last month (last updated: 17/4/2021)

Medical search

pruritus gravidarum (PG)

FREE subscriptions for doctors and students... click here
You have 3 more open access pages.

Pruritus gravidarum (PG) is a generalized, severe itchiness of late pregnancy where the only skin lesions are those secondary to scratching (1,2,3,4,5)

  • is uncertain whether it is an extension of the physiologic changes (“pregnancy is cholestatic”) or a specific dermatosis
  • sudden onset of generalized pruritus without primary skin lesions.
  • occurs during late second (20%) and on the third trimester (80%) - peaks in the last month before delivery
  • palms and soles are affected frequently (4)
  • can start as early as the 8th week (4)
  • pruritus in pregnancy is common, affecting 23% of pregnancies, of which a small proportion will have obstetric cholestasis (6)
  • generalized pruritus is followed by secondary skin excoriations
  • thought to be due to cholestasis induced by oestrogens
  • environmental (increased incidence during winter) and nutritional (low selenium levels) factors may play a role in the pathogenesis (2)
  • resolves at parturition, tends to reappear with consecutive pregnancies, and results from cholestasis in genetically predisposed women
  • divided by some into those severe cases with jaundice [intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP)] and those with pruritus and biochemical abnormalities, such as elevated levels of serum bile acids, but without hyperbilirubinemia (PG) (1)
  • disease results from disturbances of bilirubin excretion by the effects of estrogen and/or progestins

Consider if possible ICP:

  • diagnosis of ICP is based on a combination of pruritus (itching), which classically affects palms and soles but may become generalised, but without a rash apart from excoriations, together with increased concentrations of serum bile acids (values usually at least 10 micromol/ L, or above the upper limit of the normal range for the local
    • increased concentrations of serum transaminases (e.g. alanine aminotransferase (ALT)) greater than 50 U/L are often seen
    • there is now movement towards an international consensus that the diagnosis should only be made if serum bile acids are increased, irrespective of whether serum transaminases are increased, either alone or in combination (5)
    • women with persistent pruritus and normal biochemistry should have LFTs repeated every 1–2 weeks (6)
    • pregnancy-specific reference ranges for LFTs should be used
    • postnatal resolution of pruritus and abnormal LFTs should be confirmed
    • once obstetric cholestasis is diagnosed, it is reasonable to measure LFTs weekly until delivery(6)


  • seek specialist advice

More detailed information about Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is described in the linked item.

It has been stated if there is a history of obstetric cholestasis then it is better to avoid the oestrogen-containing contraceptive pill (7)


Last edited 10/2020 and last reviewed 10/2020