Mum campaigns to highlight ICP

Claire Carter and Richard Horman with baby Phoebe
Claire Carter and Richard Horman with baby Phoebe
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A Garstang mother has turned campaigner to highlight an illness which can cause stillbirth.

Claire Carter and her partner Richard Horman will set up stall in Cherestanc Square, Garstang, this Saturday for a “fun day” event with a serious message.

Claire was diagnosed with ICP (intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy) when she started itching while pregnant with daughter Phoebe, now two.

Phoebe had to be induced when Claire was 36 weeks pregnant and was born prematurely weighing just 4lbs 8 ounces. Now Claire is on a mission to educate others about the illness, the most common liver condition of pregnancy, which had her scratching her legs until they bled. She said: ”I itched everywhere, but especially my legs. You feel like you’re going mad. Every time I talk about it to people there’s a blank expression - nobody had heard of it. There’s just not enough information. It’s potentially so serious and it’s more common than people think.”

The fundraising event for charity ICP Support, will run from 11am to 3pm and Claire is appealing for local people to support her stall which will include a tombola, a name the teddy bear competition and a “Guess How Many Sweets in the Jar” contest.

The wider family - including Claire’s sister, Garstang Youth Mayor Louise McCarthy, and mum Janet McCarthy, plan to help at the stall joining Richard, who works as a taxi driver/office manager in the family business Garstang Cars Ltd (GCL).

Claire, who was receptionist at Barton Grange and now works at M & Co in Garstang, said: “We just hope people will come out and support us. We’re starting small but we’re hoping every bit helps.”

She said the best thing would be if the event helped raise awareness so that any pregnant woman suffering from unexplained itching, could ask for the appropriate bood test, get an early diagnosis and receive medical help.

The couple are focused on another special event too. Claire is pregnant again, but aware of the symptoms of ICP is ready to seek medical help, if the need arises. She said: “I’m being monitored and I’ve had regular blood tests and everything is fine at the moment. They’re just keeping a very close eye on me and the baby. It wasn’t an easy decision.We’ve taken a lot of advice.”

The fun-day coincides with ICP Support Awareness Week. ICP affects some 5,000 women in the UK each year. It typically occurs in the last three months of pregnancy. but can occur earlier. It is diagnosed by excluding other causes of itching and by measuring the amount of bile acids in the mother’s blood. A recent study showed a three-fold increase in the risk of stillbirth for women with severe ICP.

* Claire, a former pupil of Garstang High, reports that after a difficult first few months Phoebe has thrived and said: “We’re very proud of Phoebe, she has just been a little fighter.”

She recalled that once a blood test confirmed ICP treatment began promptly: “I started on medication to bring the bile levels down. You can’t go to full term, that’s too dangerous.” She was also prescribed Vitamin K, because of the risk of haemmorhaging during birth and had frequent trips to hospital for the baby to be monitored. Claire was also given steroid injections to ensure Phoebe’s lungs had matured enough to enable her to breathe unaided at birth.