Updated Etiology and Significance of Elevated Bilirubin During Pregnancy: Changes Parallel Shift in Demographics and Vaccination Status

Sangeethapriya Duraiswamy, Jeanne S. Sheffield, Donald Mcintire, Kenneth Leveno, Marlyn J. Mayo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The most common cause of jaundice during pregnancy in the United States (US) is still attributed to viral hepatitis, despite the dramatic drop in incidence of viral hepatitis in the US. Objective: We hypothesized that viral hepatitis is no longer a frequent etiology of jaundice among the pregnant population in the US and sought to identify the contemporary causes of elevated bilirubin during pregnancy as well as to quantify the associated risk to the mother and fetus. Study Design: Clinical data from all pregnant women who delivered an infant between 2005 and 2011 at a single hospital in Dallas, Texas, were ascertained using prospectively collected computerized databases. Women with elevated total bilirubin (>1.2 mg/dl) were analyzed to determine the cause of hyperbilirubinemia and maternal and fetal outcomes. Results: Out of a total of 80,857 consecutive deliveries, there were 397 (0.5 %) pregnancies with hyperbilirubinemia. The most common etiology was gallstones (98/397 = 25 %), followed by preeclampsia/eclampsia/HELLP (94/397 = 24 %) and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (53/397 = 13 %). Adverse infant outcomes, including stillbirths, fetal malformations, neonatal deaths, and small for gestational age births, were more common in the women with hyperbilirubinemia during pregnancy, but there were no maternal deaths. Conclusions: Acute viral hepatitis is no longer a common cause of jaundice in pregnant women in the US. In the current era, gallstones and preeclampsia-related disorders are the most common causes of jaundice in pregnant women. Disorders that cause elevated maternal bilirubin during pregnancy are associated with increased risk for the fetus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalDigestive Diseases and Sciences
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Sep 1 2016



  • Bilirubin
  • Cirrhosis
  • Gallstones
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver
  • Pregnant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Medicine(all)
  • Gastroenterology

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