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Bile build-up in pregnancy may harm baby's lungs

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, May 5 (Reuters) Pregnant women who develop a build-up of bile in the liver, a condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), have babies with an increased risk of developing respiratory distress syndrome, a potentially fatal disease that occurs when the tiny air sacs of the lungs collapse, according to a report in the journal Pediatrics.

ICP, the result of liver malfunction during pregnancy, causes severe itching and, in some cases, jaundice. The condition typically resolves after delivery, but it usually recurs in any subsequent pregnancies.

''Neonatologists should give particular attention during the first hours of life to these babies, monitoring respiratory function if they are delivered before term or near term (even at 37 - 38 weeks of gestation),'' Dr. Enrico Zecca from Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, told Reuters Health.

Zecca and colleagues investigated the rate of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome after pregnancies complicated by ICP and measured bile levels in the affected mothers and their infants.

The rate of respiratory distress syndrome was about twice as high in infants of mothers with ICP -- 29 percent -- as in infants of mothers without ICP -- 14 percent, the authors report. Male gender was also significantly associated with the occurrence of respiratory distress syndrome, the results indicate.

Bile levels of mothers with ICP who delivered healthy infants did not differ significantly from those of mothers who delivered infants that developed respiratory distress syndrome, the researchers note.

Similarly, infants with respiratory distress syndrome had bile levels that were similar to those of healthy infants.

''Babies from mothers with ICP have a higher risk to develop neonatal respiratory distress syndrome,'' Zecca concluded.

''Obstetricians should take this into account when planning a preterm delivery in ICP pregnancies, and neonatologists should have particular clinical attention during the first hours of life.'' Reuters CH GC0948

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