Women are twice at risk of developing gallstones and more so when they are pregnant. Gallstones during pregnancy are the second biggest non-pregnancy related reason for surgeries. Gallstones develop in gall bladders due to the increased cholesterol levels in bile. The estrogen levels in a pregnant women’s body are very high and cause this increase in cholesterol levels. Thus, pregnant women are prone to developing gallstones.
The most common symptoms are pain in the upper abdomen and between the shoulder blades, vomiting, nausea, clay colored stools, yellowing skin and maybe fever. If you suspect gallstones and decide to go in for tests, do inform the doctor about your pregnancy. Ultrasound is the only safe procedure. Blood tests will not show correct results and tests like nuclear scan, (CT) scan, or cholecystogram are unsafe in pregnancies.
Measures to take
Depending on the results and stage of pregnancy, the doctor may recommend medications or surgery. If the condition is not severe, the doctor may ask to wait out the time. Sometimes the doctors may recommend surgery and removal of gall bladder when a pregnant woman develops gallstones. A surgery is best avoided in the first trimester as the trauma of the procedure can cause miscarriage. In addition, it will expose the developing fetus to a range of medications essential for the surgery. These strong medications can cause deformities or other congenital problems. The second trimester is by far the safest time for a surgery and the preferred method is laparoscopy to avoid big incisions that take longer to heal. If the woman is in her third trimester, the doctors will prefer to wait until after the delivery. Surgery at this time can easily cause preterm labor and it is quite difficult to conduct a laparoscopic surgery at this stage.
It would be easier to reduce the risk of developing gallstones by keeping the weight gain under control, taking a low fat high fiber diet and keeping diabetes under control. If you have, any suspicions contact your doctor immediately.