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Gallbladder Issues During Pregnancy

Those pregnancy hormones can sure do a lot of disruption while they are in our bodies.  In fact, some pregnancy conditions, such as gestational diabetes and cholestasis, go away almost the instant the placenta is gone.  That is because it contains the bulk of the hormones we produce during pregnancy.  Gallstones and other gallbladder issues are common pregnancy ailments as well, and are also caused by pregnancy hormones.

Second only to appendicitis, gallstones are a leading cause of surgery during pregnancy.  Gallstones are discovered during the pregnancy ultrasounds of an estimated two to four percent of pregnant women.  One of the main concerns with gallbladder issues during pregnancy is that they can go on to cause pain and other problems after the pregnancy.

Symptoms of gallstones include:

  • Steady pain in the upper abdomen that increases rapidly and lasts 30 minutes to several hours
  • Pain in the back between the shoulder blades
  • Pain under the right shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Recurring intolerance of fatty foods
  • Belching
  • Gas and indigestion


The pain can range from mild to severe, and some people compare the pain of a severe gallbladder attack to that of childbirth.

An ultrasound is often used to determine the severity of the attack and can help determine the next steps.  While gallbladder surgery is usually postponed until after the baby is delivered, in severe cases it may be necessary to remove the gallbladder during pregnancy.

If you experience symptoms of a gallbladder attack, it is important to see your doctor to avoid complications such as a lodged stone or severe blockage.  Often, surgical intervention is necessary at some point to remove the gallbladder, but thankfully we can live without a gallbladder and even usually eat the same way we did before.