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Boyer endured ICP three times, now helps others

Hilary Boyer held two-year-old son Lucas at the family’s home in Spring Valley last week. Boyer suffered from Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) during her pregnancy with him, with son Alec, now age five, and daughter Sydney, now eight. However, her condition wasn’t diagnosed until she was expecting the second of those children. (Herald photo by Bill Kirk)

SPRING VALLEY—Expectant mothers can be forgiven if they haven’t heard of Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP).

Hilary Boyer, who’s devoting time to spreading the word about ICP, said Thursday a lot of physicians didn’t even know about it when she learned firsthand. And among those who did, there was a misconception it didn’t need to be treated.

The liver condition unique to pregnancy affects approximately one in 1,000 pregnancies in the U.S., but more where there are high Latino and Scandinavian populations, such as this region for the latter, she said. Her experience with the condition led to her becoming active in ICP Care, a national organization whose leader from Miami lost a baby to it.

“As a three-time ICP sufferer, I am committed to raising awareness for this deadly disease,” the Spring Valley native said.

Boyer encourages expectant moms to go to their doctors and ask to get a fractionated bile acid test, though these are still processed at only a relatively few labs in the country. The test will signal the presence of ICP, but she cautioned outcomes can be normal initially, so the testing should be repeated if there are symptoms.

The ICP Care group was previously called “Itchy Moms,” and that’s one of those symptoms, she said, noting there’s no accompanying rash. In her own case, the itching with her daughter Sydney, her firstborn, was so extensive she shared about it with a pregnant friend. Teaching biology at Spring Valley Schools at the time, she told a fellow teacher when both were attending a conference.

“She said she’d been itchy, too, so I didn’t think a lot more about it,” she said.

Then came the serious pain in her liver, Boyer said. Originally, the thought was it could be the baby, pushing on that organ.

She now recognizes it was ICP. The liver filters out a lot of toxins in the blood, she explained. Bile is produced in the liver’s cells, which is transported out to the digestive tract. Unfortunately, ICP interferes with that process.

“The toxins get backed up,” she said, adding not only is that the situation with the mother, but the baby, too. Yet, the baby can’t do this processing and is relying on mom for it.

For more please read the Jan. 22 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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