The gallbladder is situated below the liver and stores bile, which is required for the process of digestion. Normally, the bile is present in the gallbladder until you eat. Thereafter, it gets squeezed out into the intestines to mix with food, as the food makes its way down. The bile contains various substances such as cholesterol, bile salts, and lecithin, which when out of balance, begin to form crystals.
The crystals gradually grow larger, stick together, and become harder. These crystals are called gallstones. Changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone in expectant mothers can lead to the formation of gallstones. During pregnancy or after childbirth, many women experience stabbing pains and other intestinal discomforts due to gallstones. Apart from gallstones, pregnant women may also get affected by several other gallbladder diseases.
- Upper-right quadrant pain, i.e., stabbing pain that radiates into the back and right-shoulder blade, fever, nausea, and vomiting are the symptoms that indicate the presence of gallstones. Increased gallbladder motility and larger amounts of bile can result in what is known as a 'gallbladder attack'.
- The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile, which helps absorb lipids and break down fats ingested at each meal. Therefore, intolerance for fatty foods can also indicate problems in this organ.
- Cholecystitis during pregnancy indicates gallbladder infection. The symptoms of cholecystitis such as itching all over the body (usually in the last few months of pregnancy), without any kind of rash on the body can be noticed.
If a pregnant woman notices any of the aforementioned symptoms, the best treatment would be to follow a diet suitable to control the condition. Such a woman is expected to eat healthily for both herself and her baby. Some treatment options like herbal medicines that flush the gallbladder and acupuncture can also be tried. A pregnant woman should opt for a low-fat diet and avoid eating acidic and spicy foods like lemon and pepper respectively.
Gallbladder Removal Surgery
This surgery, if performed during the first trimester may lead to miscarriage, while a surgery during the third trimester becomes risky due to the size of the baby. Surgery is generally recommended if a woman is having multiple attacks and if she is in the second trimester. Laparoscopic removal of the infected organ is possible only in case of an emergency. The infection and inflammation is first treated medically and then surgically.
Pregnant women usually respond to hydration, pain relievers, suction, and antibiotics. This surgery is usually preferred after childbirth since the chances of complications are minimized during this period. Use of a heat pad or electric blanket can help relieve the back pain. Use of intravenous fluids, correction of an electrolyte imbalance, bowel rest, antibiotics, and antispasmodics can be prescribed by the doctor.
Pregnant women should consult the gynecologist immediately if they notice any symptoms related to the condition. They should take extra care of themselves. Most of the time, the pain goes away on its own; however, the woman needs to follow the instructions of the doctor regarding the diet. Contracting gallbladder could potentially pass the stone, and it could result in pancreatitis, which is a life-threatening condition. Vomiting and excruciating pain are the symptoms that convey that the mother is passing a stone which can be very dangerous.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.