Gallbladder Removal and Pregnancy: Safeguarding Maternal and Fetal Health

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ that stores the extra bile produced by the liver. However, extra bile and cholesterol inside the organ can harden into small lumps called gallstones that obstruct the bile flow and cause inflammation. If gallstones cause severe discomfort, your physician may advise gallbladder surgery to remove the organ to prevent further complications.

Gallstones are a common condition seen during pregnancy. Nearly 8% of pregnant women suffer from gallstones. While the surgical removal of the gallbladder is the most effective treatment for gallstones, many fear surgery during pregnancy. However, according to a study, women who abstained from gallbladder surgery during pregnancy experienced a 95% increased chance of being readmitted with a maternal-fetal complication. The latter were more vulnerable to maternal-fetal complications. Read on to learn more about gallbladder removal and pregnancy.

Causes of Gallbladder Issues During Pregnancy

The chances of developing gallstones increase during pregnancy due to:

  • Progesterone slows down the function of the gallbladder
  • Estrogen produced during pregnancy may lead to higher cholesterol levels in the bile
  • The enlarged uterus exerts pressure on the gallbladder

Symptoms of Gallbladder Issues in Expecting Mothers

The common symptoms that women may experience from gallstones during pregnancy include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden sharp pain on the right side of the body, from the stomach to the shoulders
  • Fever
  • Itching

Several pregnant women do not have any symptoms of gallbladder issues. This condition is known as silent gallstones and is diagnosed only through medical imaging tests.

Pregnancy-Related Complications Associated with Gallbladder Problems

If the symptoms persist, it may be due to complications in the gallbladder, such as:

  • Cholecystitis: infection of the gallbladder
  • Choledocholithiasis: blockage of the bile ducts
  • Cholangitis: infection of the biliary tree
  • Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas

Serious complications can result in the following severe symptoms:

  • Continuous and severe abdominal pain
  • Fever with chills
  • Frequent bouts of vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stool
  • Yellowing of the skin and the eyes or jaundice

Gallbladder Issues and Pregnancy: Risk Factors Associated with It

While pregnant women are more prone to developing gallbladder issues, the risk factors that increase the occurrence of gallstones during pregnancy are:

  • Obesity
  • Previous history of gallbladder disease
  • Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone
  • Prolonged fasting or low-calorie diets

Diagnosis and Treatment Options for Gallbladder Removal During Pregnancy

Diagnosis Options

The diagnosis of gallbladder issues is made with the help of imaging tests that are safe to be performed during pregnancy. Such tests include ultrasound or magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), which can be used for gallbladder removal during pregnancy. These tests help assess the condition of the gallbladder and determine appropriate treatment options without posing a risk to the mother or the developing baby.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgical removal of the gallbladder is the definitive treatment for gallstones and other gallbladder issues. It is the second most common non-obstetric surgery after appendix removal that is performed during pregnancy. Also, it does not have long-term effects on the body. The types of gallbladder surgery during pregnancy include:

  • Cholecystectomy: It is a minimally invasive surgical procedure usually performed in the second or early third trimester. However, if the condition develops into complications, the surgery is done irrespective of the term of pregnancy.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): This procedure is performed to remove gallstones that obstruct bile flow or cause pancreatic inflammation.

Alternative Treatment Options for Gallbladder Issues in Pregnant Women

Besides gallbladder surgery, the other treatment options that are offered for relief from gallbladder issues during pregnancy are:

  • Medications: Doctors prescribe different types of medicines to offer relief for gallbladder issues which may include:
    • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen
    • Antibiotics to treat infections
  • Dietary Changes: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats, and fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, should be included in the diet, and the intake of saturated fats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates must be avoided.

Consult North Atlanta Women’s Care for Comprehensive Diagnostic and Treatment Services

At North Atlanta Women’s Care, we offer a wide range of quality women’s care. Our team of board-certified gynecologic and obstetric physicians is committed to providing the highest standards of service with compassion and care, using state-of-the-art technology.

If you are looking for gynecological surgery in Suwanee/Johns Creek, GA, and the North Atlanta Area, we can be one of your best options. For more information about the treatments that we offer in reproductive healthcare, contact us today to schedule an appointment.


Content Source: JAMA, Jefferson


North Atlanta Women's Care

North Atlanta Women’s Care specializes in complete women's health care and is the preferred source of comprehensive obstetrics and gynecology services for many women in Johns Creek, Georgia, and the greater Atlanta area.

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