Gallstone and Pregnancy Know the complications

February 28, 2017

Gallstone and pregnancy: Know the complications


A gallbladder is a relatively small organ that plays a major role in digestion. However, it can be a reason to worry during pregnancy. The changes that occur during pregnancy represents the effective functioning of the gallbladder. An affected gallbladder can cause various complications that can affect the development of the baby.

Gallbladder disease and pregnancy

Pregnant women are most affected as they have a high risk of developing gallstones due to changes in the hormonal levels. Gallstones can lead to pain, and if they are not treated, they can even rupture and make the situation worse. However, the formation of gallstone stones can be avoided if the symptom is already known.

How does pregnancy affect the gallbladder?

During pregnancy, the hormones namely progesterone affects the gallbladder. As a result, the release of the bile juices is decelerated which leads to the formation of the gallbladder. The women who already have gallstones are at higher risk since these stones block the release of the bile. Gallbladder disease during pregnancy is often misdiagnosed or confused with morning sickness which causes a problem in its detection. However, the most efficient way to diagnose the gallbladder condition is an ultrasound.


Gallstones are formed due to various reasons. However, normally they are formed due to an imbalance in the formation or drainage of bile that includes cholesterol and bile salts.
As a result, they form crystals which can grow large and become hard. The circulating hormones namely estrogen and progesterone affects the gallbladder’s contraction ability to excrete bile.
The higher levels of these hormones promote gallstone formation and when these gallstones are lodged inside the gallbladder or pancreas they can be very painful.

Gallstones and Pregnancy: Symptoms

It is important to consult with the doctor and to know the symptoms of the gallbladder disease during pregnancy. Some of the symptoms that are encountered are:

  1. Gradual increasing pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen
  2. Pain under right shoulder
  3. Long lasting abdominal pains
  4. Nausea and vomiting
  5. Fever and chills
  6. Yellow and clay-coloured stools

Can gallbladder disease affect the development of the baby?

Gallstones do not cause any effect on the baby. However, the baby can be affected by the implications of the disease condition. Infection, nausea, and vomiting hamper the ability to nourish which can affect the development of the baby.

Gallstones and pregnancy: The actual link

The liver produces bile which is made of water, cholesterol, fat, protein and some bile salts. The gallbladder stores the bile until the body needs it. The bile is further released in the small intestine where it helps with the digestion of fats. If an imbalance occurs between the substances that make biles, then hardened gallstones occur in the gallbladder. During pregnancy, large amounts of estrogens are produced to support the developing baby. The presence of high levels of estrogens also increases the cholesterol level that ultimately leads to the formation of gallstones. The women who have been taking hormone replacement therapy or certain birth control pills are at high risk of having gallstones as these medicines contain estrogen.

Diagnosis of gallstones in pregnancy

An abdominal ultrasound is performed to confirm the diagnosis. It is very important to tell the doctor about your pregnancy as various diagnostic modalities used for a diagnosis like cholecystogram, CT scan or nuclear scan are not recommended in pregnancy as there are unsafe. Gallstones are surgically removed depending upon the presence of symptoms and different risk factors in pregnancy.

Prevention of gallstone formation in pregnancy

Gallstone formation in pregnancy can be prevented by following ways:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight
  2. Having a high fibre and low diet
  3. Managing the diabetic condition

Thus gallstones during pregnancy can be avoided by adopting the mentioned guidelines. However, a regular doctor checkup is also important if you are at risk or are developing the significant symptoms of gallstones during pregnancy.

Related Post: Diet sheet for gallbladder stones