You are pregnant, and have been experiencing the typical morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, and some interspersed moments of small niggles of aches and pains. You take everything in your stride and assume everything to be a part of the package called – pregnancy! However, if you experience a sharp, shooting pain in your lower abdomen concentrated more towards the right side of your body, then tread cautiously, and report this pain to your doctor. It could possibly be an inflamed appendix – a condition called appendicitis – causing this pain. And appendicitis during pregnancy is a rare but real risk. So, pay attention, visit your doctor and take those crucial next steps. Let us know what this is about, one query at a time!
Symptoms of appendicitis during pregnancy:
Although rare, some women do experience this condition during their pregnancy. But how does one know it is appendix? Below are some symptoms, which when experienced, should raise red flags:
- Pain in the abdomen: If you experience pain in your abdomen that starts at your belly button and spreads or moves to the right lower quadrant of your abdomen after a couple of hours, and becomes worse when pressure is applied over that area, it could well be pain due to an inflamed and infected appendix.
- Nausea and vomiting: If this severe abdominal pain is followed by abnormally persisting nausea and vomiting, it could appendicitis.
- High fever: You may well argue that the body temperature remains slightly high during pregnancy. But if you notice your body temperature to spike and refuse to ease along with abdominal pain, then visiting the doctor is a must.
- Vaginal bleeding: Vaginal bleeding accompanied by abdominal pain should be taken in all its seriousness, and you must consult the doctor at the earliest.
- Abdominal swelling: While swollen feet are visible, your swollen abdomen may be difficult to spot, given your trimester and stage. But careful observation and touch can help you identify this symptom allowing you enough time to visit your doctor.
What happens if the appendix bursts during pregnancy?
If the symptoms of appendicitis are ignored or missed for a long time, there is a high possibility of its rupture. This condition could cause serious health risks for a non-pregnant and healthy person, thus establishing the fact that it could prove to be potentially dangerous for a pregnant woman. If the condition is captured well in time during the first two trimesters then the risk percentage is relatively low. However, if there is perforation of the appendix during the last trimester, it could lead to serious side effects such as preterm labor, infection, loss of fetus or loss of the mother.
Treatment for appendicitis during pregnancy:
Appendicitis during pregnancy can be diagnosed by blood work, urine test, ultrasound scan and MRI scan. Once appendicitis is confirmed, the doctor could prescribe one of the two following available treatment plans. Appendicitis during pregnancy can be treated either using antibiotics or by performing a surgery called appendectomy. If the appendix is not severely inflamed and infected, and given that you have a little person growing inside you, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics. These antibiotics are to be administered intravenously as against ingesting them.
The other treatment plan is surgery.
Surgical removal of appendix during pregnancy and its implications:
In case appendicitis is severe and poses a risk of perforation, an appendectomy needs to be performed. If appendectomy is performed in the first and second trimesters, the surgery and recovery are relatively safer. The surgery, in such cases is performed laparoscopically, that is, through small holes in the abdomen, granting it an assumed name of band aid surgery. In case the surgery needs to be performed in the third trimester, it carries a potential risk as a larger incision needs to be made, given the size of the uterus.
In several cases, that is, about 80 percent of the cases*, an appendectomy in the third trimester will lead to preterm contractions. Most of these cases will not result in preterm labor. However, about 5-14 percent of these women will have preterm labor post an appendectomy. The first 24 hours after the appendectomy are crucial for the health of both, the mother and the baby. Hence, fetal monitoring is recommended.
* Oxford Handbook of Obstetrics and Gynecology.