Pregnancy is a time of joy and excitement for many expecting mothers, but it can also bring about unexpected health issues. One such issue that pregnant women should be aware of is the risk of developing gallstones during pregnancy.
Gallstones are hard deposits made up of cholesterol, bilirubin or calcium salts which form within the gallbladder and can cause pain, nausea, and vomiting. Fortunately, if detected early, they can usually be treated with medication or surgery to ensure both mother and baby remain healthy throughout the pregnancy.
We will discuss how pregnant women can identify the early causes of gallstones and seek appropriate treatment quickly. We will also look at ways to prevent their formation to reduce the likelihood of developing this condition during pregnancy.
The Link Between Gallstones And Pregnancy
Gallstones are a common health issue, but they can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women. During pregnancy, hormone levels fluctuate and an increase in estrogen can result in a cholesterol spike, leading to the formation of gallstones. Expectant mothers should understand how to manage gallstones to keep themselves and their baby safe.
Risk Factors For Gallstones During Pregnancy
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing gallstones during pregnancy.
These factors include:
- being overweight or obese
- having a family history of gallbladder disease
- having diabetes
- women who have had multiple pregnancies
- women aged 35 or older
Being overweight or obese may increase cholesterol levels, making it more vulnerable to developing gallstones. Genetics also play a role, as those with a family history of gallbladder disease may be more likely to develop gallstones during pregnancy.
In addition, women with diabetes should be extra vigilant as this condition can predispose them to an increased risk of developing gallstones while pregnant. The risk increases among women who have had several pregnancies due to the added strain on the gallbladder that comes with carrying multiple babies.
Lastly, women aged 35 and over have an increased risk of developing gallstones as age can cause changes in the body which contribute to an increased likelihood of forming stones during pregnancy.
Symptoms Of Gallstones During Pregnancy
The most common symptom of gallstones is pain in the upper right abdomen, which usually lasts for more than 15 minutes and often occurs after eating fatty or greasy foods.
Other symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Back pain between the shoulder blades.
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin or whites of eyes).
- Clay-coloured stools.
As gallstones can cause intense pain during pregnancy, expectant mothers need to take steps to manage the pain. This may include drinking plenty of fluids, eating smaller meals more frequently, avoiding fatty or greasy foods, and making informed decisions when it comes to diet and lifestyle. Additionally, warm baths can help relieve discomfort.
Ways to Reduce The Risk Of Gallstones During Pregnancy
Taking steps to reduce these risks is important to keep both the mother and baby safe throughout pregnancy. By eating healthily and sustaining a consistent exercise routine, you can maintain a healthier weight and reduce cholesterol levels.
Additionally, women who have had multiple pregnancies should drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in fibre, which can help reduce their risk of developing stones during their subsequent pregnancy.
Women over 35 should also ask their doctor about having regular ultrasounds to monitor signs of bile duct obstruction or other complications related to gallstones before they become severe.
Complications Of Gallstones During Pregnancy
In severe cases of gallstone or gallbladder infection, the condition can lead to complications during pregnancy, including jaundice, pancreatitis and bile duct obstruction. In such cases, it can even lead to preterm labour or placental abruption.
For this reason, any woman experiencing signs of gallstone formation should seek medical attention immediately to ensure the safety of both mother and baby.
Treatment Options For Gallstones During Pregnancy
When treating gallstones during pregnancy, you might worry about the risks involved for both the parent and the child. Fortunately, treatments are available to reduce the effects of gallstones during pregnancy without harming the foetus.
A gallbladder surgery can remove gallstones, but other non-invasive options are available with lower risks.
In mild cases, medications may be prescribed, as well as dietary changes, to prevent more stones from forming.
Surgery may be necessary if gallstones cause severe symptoms or complications during pregnancy. Surgery which involves removing the gallbladder through laparoscopy may be recommended to remove larger stones. For more complicated cases, an open gallbladder surgery with a larger incision may be required.
Your doctor will discuss these options with you to weigh the various risks and benefits, as every woman and pregnancy is unique.
Expectant mothers should understand the risk factors and symptoms associated with gallstones as well as the treatments available to manage their condition while expecting. Additionally, they should focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle before and throughout their pregnancy to reduce their risk of developing gallstones. With proper management, pregnant women can stay safe and healthy during this exciting time in their lives.
Contact our clinic for medical advice if you suspect that you may have gallstones or experience symptoms suggestive of the condition. Our professional medical team will provide you with experienced advice to navigate your treatment options while ensuring mother and baby are safe throughout the process.