In addition to morning sickness, swollen feet and stretch marks, pregnant women have yet another thing to worry about – Gallstones. Various studies prove that women have a twice the risk as compared to men of developing gallstones. Hormonal changes that occur in the body of pregnant women can put you at even higher risk. Stones in the gallbladder can lead to pain and other symptoms and if left untreated, they can cause your gallbladder to become infected.
What’s the link between Gallstones & Pregnancy?
Liver produces bile, which is made up of cholesterol, fat, bilirubin, protein and bile salts. Gallbladder stores bile until needed by the body and releases it into the small intestine where it helps in the digestion of fats. If the substance that makes up your bile becomes imbalanced – too much cholesterol or bilirubin and insufficient bile salts, it can lead to the formation of stones in the gallbladder.
During pregnancy, the body begins to produce estrogen hormone in higher number in order to support the development of baby. In some females, higher level of estrogen can cause the cholesterol levels in bile to spike leading to the development of gallstones. For the same reason, women taking birth control pills are also at an increased risk of developing gallstones since all these medicines contain estrogen.
Gall stones & Pregnancy – Symptoms
In many cases, gallstones do not cause any symptoms and might go away on their own after you deliver a baby. However, if you are facing the following potential symptoms, it is recommended to consult your doctor.
• Abdominal pain that lasts for more than 3-4 hours
• Pain between shoulder blades
• Increasing pain in upper right portion of abdomen especially after completing a fatty meal
• Nausea or Vomiting
• Stools that are clay colored
• Fever or Jaundice
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you are facing any of the above mentioned symptoms, your doctor will perform an abdominal ultrasound to reach to gallstones conclusion. It is important to inform your doctor about your pregnancy as some diagnostic tests such as x-ray of gallbladder, computed tomography or nulear scan are not safe during pregnancy
Depending upon your symptoms and risk factors, your doctor may choose to carefully monitor you during pregnancy and suggest a gall bladder removal surgery after you deliver your baby.
Preventing Gallstones during Pregnancy
Below mentioned are few suggestions that can help you lower down the risks of gallstones during pregnancy
1. Right diet – fatty foods with less amount of fibre can increase your risk of developing gall stones. It is recommended to reduce your fat intake while increasing your intake of fibre rich foods to keep your gall bladder and baby healthy.
2. Weight management – Obesity is considered to be a major risk factor for developing gallstones in women. Although, pregnancy is not a time for weight loss diets, but you can work with your doctor to avoid excess weight gain during pregnancy
3. Diabetes Management – people with diabetes have a high triglyceride level and both conditions are associated with the risk of gallstones. You can work with your doctor to keep your diabetes under control while you are pregnant
Working towards avoiding gallstones during pregnancy is not an uphill task. All it requires is just some small tweaks to your routine. Talk to your doctor for useful suggestions.