Pregnancy is a period when your body undergoes a lot of changes and you face different problems at different stages. Be it morning sickness, stretch marks, back pain or swollen feet, you have to deal with all this and much more during pregnancy. One common problem that may also creep up during this phase is the formation of gallstones. As such gallbladder problems occur more in women than men and pregnancy just increases the risk of developing gallstones all the more. Continue reading to know more about gallstones – its causes, symptoms and treatment and ways to prevent it during pregnancy.
The gallbladder is a small organ that lies just beneath the liver. Gall bladder stores bile, a substance that is produced by the liver, which helps with the digestion of fats. As food enters the small intestine from the stomach, the gallbladder contracts, and releases the bile into the intestine.
During pregnancy, the hormones, especially progesterone, causes muscle tissues in the body to relax, and this influences the gallbladder as well. As a result, the strength of the contraction of the gallbladder decreases, thus, slowing down the release of bile. That is why it is said that it is better to avoid excess fatty food during pregnancy.
Bile which is a bitter greenish-brown alkaline fluid produced by the liver is made up of water, cholesterol, fat, protein, bilirubin, and bile salts. If there is an imbalance in the amount of any of these substances that make up the bile, it can cause problem. So if there is insufficient bile salts, the bile can become concentrated and crystallized thus resulting in formation of “stones” in the gallbladder. Gallstones, if left untreated, can cause an infection or even lead to a ruptured gall bladder.
As we already mentioned, women are more prone to the gallstones than men. Pregnancy increases the risk of gallstone formation. This is mainly due to the influence of the pregnancy hormones.
Though pregnancy itself increases the chances of gallstone formation in women, the chances get even higher:
The main symptoms of presence of gallstones during pregnancy include:
If the pregnant woman exhibits any of the above signs, the doctor will perform an ultrasound to diagnose the presence of gallstones. If nausea and vomiting which are the initial signs of the gallstones, appear in the first trimester, they may often be confused with morning sickness. However, if the symptoms still persist during the second trimester, the doctor will perform an ultrasound to check for gallstones.
Depending on the severity of infection and inflammation of gallbladder, the doctor may decide either to carefully monitor the pregnant woman throughout pregnancy or perform a surgery before delivery. If the doctor decides to do gallbladder surgery, it will be performed laparoscopically. In this procedure, the surgeon makes two small incisions in the abdomen that helps to insert the surgical instruments and a laparoscope which has a tiny camera that transmits the organ’s picture to a video monitor. The treatment option also depends on the intensity and how far the pregnancy has progressed.
It is not possible to completely prevent gallstones. However, by taking the steps mentioned below you can definitely lower the risk of gallstone formation, especially, if you are more susceptible to it
Hope this article helped you to better understand the formation of gallstones during pregnancy and ways to prevent it. Please don’t forget to share your experience in the comments section below.