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Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy



Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) is a rare buildup of fat in the liver. If it is not treated right away, it can lead to coma, organ failure, and death of the mother and baby.

The Liver.

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The cause is not known. It may be due to a problem in a certain enzyme in the mother.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the mother's risk are:

  • Being pregnant with more than one child
  • First pregnancy
  • A problem with the long-chain 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase (LCHAD) enzyme


Some people do not have symptoms. Those who do have problems that are not specific. Most symptoms start in the third trimester.

Problems may be:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of hunger
  • Headache
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Belly pain
  • Excess thirst
  • Passing more urine than usual


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests that may be done are:

  • Blood tests to check liver function
  • Urine tests to look for signs of kidney damage

Images may be taken to check liver size. This can be done with an ultrasound.


The only way to cure this condition is to deliver the baby. The decision to do so depends on how many weeks the person has been pregnant. Labor may happen on its own or it may be started by the doctor. Liver function will return to normal after delivery.


There are no guidelines to prevent this problem.





  • Acute fatty liver disease of pregnancy. British Liver Trust website. Available at: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/information-and-support/living-with-a-liver-condition/liver-conditions/acute-fatty-liver-of-pregnancy.
  • Acute fatty liver of pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-fatty-liver-of-pregnancy.
  • 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.
  • Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. March of Dimes website. Available at: https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/intrahepatic-cholestasis-of-pregnancy.aspx.


  • Elizabeth Margaret Prusak, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.