Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) is a rare complication of pregnancy that involves the buildup of fat in the liver. Without prompt treatment, AFLP can lead to coma, organ failure, and death of the mother and baby.
Factors that may increase a pregnant woman’s risk of AFLP include:
Symptoms are usually not specific. Most symptoms begin in the third trimester and may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken to check the size of your liver. This can be done with:
A genetic test may be done after delivery of the newborn. This will determine whether the newborn has LCHAD deficiency. LCHAD deficiency prevents the baby from converting certain fats to energy. This can result in feeding difficulties, low blood sugar, and liver problems.
Treatment will depend on the severity of your condition but in general includes stabilizing the mother until the baby can be safely delivered.
After diagnosis, the mother’s and baby’s vital signs will be monitored. This often requires hospitalization. The following treatments may be needed to help stabilize the mother:
The liver will often return to normal function after birth. This may require delivering the baby earlier than expected. Once it is safe for the baby, labor may be started by your doctor. A cesarean section may also be done in severe cases.
It will take a few days to recover from AFLP after the baby is delivered. The mother and baby will be monitored in the hospital until liver values are improved.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
March of Dimes
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada
Acute fatty liver of pregnancy. British Liver Trust website. Available at: http://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/liver-information/liver-conditions/acute-fatty-liver-of-pregnancy. Updated August 2012. Accessed August 1, 2016.
Acute fatty liver of pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115528/Acute-fatty-liver-of-pregnancy. Updated August 22, 2014. Accessed February 10, 2017.
Acute fatty liver of pregnancy. Stanford Children’s Health website. Available at: http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=acute-fatty-liver-of-pregnancy-90-P02465. Accessed August 1, 2016.
Ko H, BSc Pharm MD, et al. Acute fatty liver of pregnancy. Can J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan;20(1):25-30.
Liver disorders. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/liver-disorders.aspx. Updated February 2009. Accessed August 1, 2016.
Wakim-Fleming, J. Liver Disease in Pregnancy. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/hepatology/liver-disease-in-pregnancy. Published August 2010. Accessed August 1, 2016.
Last reviewed January 2017 by James Cornell, MD