To evaluate differences between fasting and nonfasting bile acid levels in asymptomatic and symptomatic pregnant women.
This is a report of two prospective cohort studies describing bile acid levels in the fasting and nonfasting state in pregnancy. The first cohort included asymptomatic women with singleton pregnancies. Women with a diagnosis of cholestasis, symptoms of cholestasis, or intolerance to components of a standardized meal were excluded. Bile acid levels were measured during the second and third trimesters after fasting and again 2 hours after a standardized meal. The second cohort included symptomatic women with singleton pregnancies in whom fasting and nonfasting bile acid levels were measured at the time of symptom evaluation. A cutoff of 10 micromoles/L was used for diagnosis.
A total of 27 women were included in the asymptomatic cohort. Median [interquartile range] fasting bile acid levels were significantly lower than nonfasting levels in both the second trimester (4.65 micromoles/L [1.02–29.57] vs 13.62 micromoles/L [2.03–40.26]; P<.001) and third trimester (8.31 micromoles/L [1.14–51.26] vs 17.35 micromoles/L [1.77–62.93]; P<.001). Bile acid levels exceeded 10 micromoles/L in 21% of the fasting samples and in 58% of the nonfasting samples in the third trimester. A total of 26 women were included in the symptomatic cohort. Median [interquartile range] fasting bile acid levels were significantly lower than nonfasting values (11.5 micromoles/L [7–56] vs 13.5 micromoles/L [9–142]; P<.001). Six patients in the symptomatic cohort (23%) had nonfasting bile acid levels greater than 10 micromoles/L that dropped below 10 micromoles/L when fasting.
Fasting bile acid levels are significantly lower when compared with nonfasting values in both asymptomatic and symptomatic pregnant women. In asymptomatic women, nonfasting bile acid levels often exceeded 10 micromoles/L whereas fasting values did not. In symptomatic women, fasting bile acid levels resulted in 23% fewer diagnoses of cholestasis when compared with nonfasting values. These findings suggest that fasting evaluation of bile acid levels or a higher threshold for diagnosis of cholestasis should be considered.