Gallstones are tiny pebble like crystals that are formed in the gall bladder due to accumulation of bile pigments and can interfere with the digestive function. During pregnancy, changes within the body coupled with slower digestive functions can increase the risk of gallstones. About 3-10% of pregnant women may complain of some form of gallbladder disorder, with gallstones being the most common cause.
Estimates suggest that gall bladder disorders are more common during pregnancy with about 25-30% of pregnant females complaining of some type of gall bladder disorder. Eventually about 3-10% of pregnant females may develop gallstones.
In general the gall bladder stores bile salts which play a primary role in the digestion of fats and complex carbohydrates. During pregnancy, there are several anatomical and hormonal changes, which affect the process of digestion and can lead to accumulation of bile with the gall bladder, increasing the risk of development of bile stones.
Is Pregnancy Responsible Gallstones Formation?
During pregnancy a female is at a higher risk of developing gallbladder stones due to high levels of estrogen in the body. In addition, the increasing size of the uterus can put pressure on different parts of the gastro-intestinal tract including the stomach and the gallbladder, increasing the risk of gallstones. There are certain symptoms that can help in identification of gallstones during pregnancy which include,
- Severe and debilitating pain in the right side of the rib cage, which is aggravated after a heavy or an oily meal. The pain may radiate to the back, between the two shoulder blades.
- Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and a loss of appetite.
- Abdominal bloating, accumulation of gas and indigestion are some of the associated symptoms that are observed.
How to Treat Gallstones during Pregnancy?
A healthy diet can help in prompt management of symptoms associated with gallstones. During pregnancy the diet should focus on providing adequate nutrition to the growing fetus, while preventing an acute attack of gallbladder pain. Some of the recommended dietary suggestions include,
- Ensure that your diet is rich in dietary fiber. Include fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, beans and whole grains in your diet.
- Avoid fatty and fried food along with meat. In order to get adequate nutrition one must consume fish or nuts, which are great sources of healthy unsaturated fatty acids. However, it is recommended to limit the intake of fish due to higher risk of mercury poisoning. Limit the intake of fish to 12 pounds per week.
- Remain well hydrated. Drink at least 3-3.5 liters of water each day. Water helps to flush your system and eliminate accumulated toxins and sludge.
In severe cases, laparoscopic surgery may be conducted to remove the gallstones, though the risk associated with the surgery increases with advancing pregnancy.