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How Pregnancy Affects Gallbladder Function

written by: CamillaPeters • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/2/2010

It is not an uncommon occurrence for women to experience symptoms of gallbladder problems during pregnancy. The reason for this is because a woman’s body produces more hormones than normal to compensate for the growing fetus.

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    The rapid production of larger than normal levels of hormones during pregnancy can wreak havoc on a gallbladder, and prevent it from working correctly. These gallbaldder problems can cause a variety of different symptoms due to gallstones or inflammation. Although it is common for a woman to experience many aches and pains during pregnancy, symptoms of gallbladder problems can be more serious than the usual pregnancy pains.

    Always report unusual symptoms to your physician that may arise during a pregnancy, as they can indicate a much serious condition such as preeclampsia or bowel obstruction.

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    Stomach Problems

    Pregnant women usually experience stomach problems throughout the pregnancy. The difference between regular pregnancy pains and gallbladder stomach pains is easy to determine. When a gallbladder attack occurs, there is sudden, persistent pain in the upper part of the abdomen. This pain can last for as little as 30 minutes to as long as several hours. This pain can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting that is more severe than usual. Another common symptom of gallbladder stomach problems is bloating. These women can have more gas or indigestion, although they may be avoiding foods that cause this.

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    Pain in the Shoulder or Ribcage

    One of the most common symptoms of gallbladder problems is persistent pain in the shoulder area or under the ribs during a gallbladder attack. The location of the pain varies from woman to woman, with some women feeling the pain between the shoulder blades and some women feeling the pain on one shoulder. Some women feel a sharp, stabbing pain in the ribs when taking a deep breath. This pain can last for minutes to hours, and can keep her from sleeping through the night. It can also become bothersome enough to keep the woman from being able to get comfortable.

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    Gallstones

    Gallstones are a common cause of gallbladder symptoms during pregnancy. The Merck Manuals describe gallstones as occurring when the liver produces too much cholesterol, bile becomes too saturated. This saturation created solid bile particles, or crystals. These can become large enough to block the ducts in the gallbladder or the pancreas. These crystals are created because the gallbladder is no longer able to function as quickly as normal. This causes the materials that normally flow through the gallbladder freely to become lodged in the tissues or the ducts of the gallbladder. The symptoms of gallstones are incredibly painful abdominal pains following the consumption of certain spicy or greasy foods. It is possible for a blocked duct to cause serious complications, such as jaundice or infection.

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    References

    I Am Pregnant: What Are the Symptoms of Gallbladder Complications - http://www.i-am-pregnant.com/encyclopedia/G/Gallbladder/

    GallbladderAttack: Gallbladder Symptoms - http://www.gallbladderattack.com/gallbladdersymptoms.shtml#GALLBLADDERATTACKSYMPTOMS

    Merck Manuals: Gallstones - http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec10/ch140/ch140b.html