Gallstones can occur at any time, but they are particularly prevalent in pregnancy. This is because the changes that occur in the body during pregnancy can vastly affect how it works.
Here, you’ll discover some key things about gallstones and pregnancy to help you understand whether or not you need to seek treatment.
How Does Pregnancy Affect the Gallbladder?
During pregnancy, the body produces a lot more estrogen. The more estrogen there is in the body, the more cholesterol there is present in the bile. It also reduces contractions of the gallbladder, which means the bile can’t escape as easily as usual.
The trouble is, this in turn can lead to several pregnancy complications. Just some of the complications that can arise include premature birth, passing stones before birth and stillbirth.
It is important to note here that these complications are rare. Most gallstones in pregnancy will resolve themselves without the need for treatment. However, it is still worth being aware of the risks. After all, you can never be too careful with the health of your baby.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
If you develop gallstones during pregnancy, you can expect to experience the following symptoms:
- Intense itching
- Dark urine
These are specific pregnancy-related symptoms. Intense itching is especially common and one of the only pregnancy-specific symptoms to watch out for. You can also experience general gallstone symptoms such as pain in the upper abdomen and nausea. The latter can be hard to spot due to the morning sickness often presented during pregnancy.
If you notice you have pain for more than a few hours at a time, it could indicate a more serious gallbladder issue. So, any symptoms that you do experience should be fully checked over by a doctor.
Can You Prevent Gallstones in Pregnancy?
There are some things you can do to reduce your risk of developing gallstones during pregnancy. These include:
- Make sure you gain a healthy amount of weight
- Cut back on refined carbs and sugar
- Eat a high-fiber, healthy fat diet
- Ensure diabetes is managed correctly
It’s normal and indeed crucial to gain some weight during pregnancy. However, it’s easy to gain too much when you’re “eating for two”. So, try to monitor the amount of weight you’re putting on. Make sure you talk to your doctor to discover how to avoid gaining too much weight.
Eating a healthy diet that is full of fiber and healthy fats is also going to help. Both of these are known to reduce the risk of gallstones generally. As diabetes can also increase your risk, you’ll want to make sure the condition is managed. Like gallstones, diabetes is a common condition that pregnant women suffer with. So, if your risk is high, talk to your doctor about how to manage it properly.
So, while gallstones are a bigger risk for pregnant women, there are ways to help prevent them. There are also treatments you can try out if you are diagnosed with them. However, you should always talk to a physician before attempting to treat gallstones when you are pregnant.