Gallstones in Pregnancy

Gallstones can develop at any age and affect both men and women, though the risk is higher for women by 2 to 3 times, and even higher if the woman is pregnant. One key reason for this is that women produce more oestrogen during pregnancy, which leads to higher amounts of cholesterol in the bile, thereby resulting in the formation of gallstones.

Symptoms and Complications

Gallstones in pregnancy have similar symptoms and complications regardless whether one is pregnant or not. These include:

  • abdominal pain, specifically in the upper right area
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • light- or clay-coloured stool
  • fever
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)

Diagnosis and Treatment

Gallstones during pregnancy are diagnosed via abdominal imaging tests such as an ultrasound. When it comes to remedy, women with gallstones while pregnant are treated based on how far along in their pregnancies they are.

  • First-trimester treatment: Surgery is not recommended as a treatment for gallstones during the first trimester unless absolutely necessary. This is because any type of surgery that involves the abdomen can increase the risk of preterm labour and miscarriage.
  • Second-trimester treatment: The second trimester is the safest time to perform gallbladder surgery. Doing the procedure laparoscopically is preferred because it is easier and safer compared to a traditional open surgery, which requires a long incision and longer recovery.
  • Third-trimester treatment: At this stage, surgery is not recommended. Instead, the doctor will advise the woman to first deliver her baby before gallbladder surgery is scheduled. One reason is that laparoscopic surgery is more difficult to perform with a growing uterus.

Home Care

Gallbladder pain during pregnancy can be addressed by taking medicine as prescribed and practicing general care as outlined below.

Medicines: Pregnant women can experience pain and other complications if their gallstones are symptomatic. This can be addressed by taking certain medications advised by their healthcare provider. Instructions on how to take these medicines should be followed strictly.

General Care: Hormones, hereditary conditions, and genetics are some of the risk factors for gallstones that cannot be controlled. However, patients can opt for lifestyle changes that can aid in lessening symptoms. These can include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Consuming food that are high in fibre and low in fat
  • Avoiding fried and greasy food
  • Engaging in appropriate physical exercise
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Minimising consumption of high-fat food such as red meats, vegetable oils and animal fats
  • Limiting consumption of food that are high in sugar and carbohydrates
  • Going to regular health check-ups

Will gallbladder disease affect my baby?

Gallstones can be asymptomatic and will not directly affect the baby. However, if a pregnant woman has symptomatic gallstones that affect how she eats, or that cause inflammation or infection, then the condition can cause health problems for the baby.

Gallbladder disease after pregnancy

After giving birth, women will not usually experience symptoms of gallstones. It will take two to four months for the symptoms to surface. This occurrence of gallstone symptoms is linked to faster weight loss after delivery because their bodies burn fat quicker, causing more cholesterol to accumulate in the bile and form gallstones.

Surgical Associates offers personalised and effective services for the treatment of gallstones during pregnancy. The clinic also provides treatments for gallbladder issues after pregnancy. For more information, call 6454 0054.