Can Pregnancy Cause Gallstones?

Yes. Yes, it can, and it happened to me after I had A.

In general women are twice as likely as men are to develop gallstones and due to hormonal changes during pregnancy that risk can be elevated even more. Until I found myself dealing with gallstones, I had no idea that this was a possibility.  However, my family is no stranger to gallstones. Both of my grandparents on my mom’s side of the family and my uncle (her brother) had to have their gallbladders removed. Fortunately for my mom, it seems to have skipped her, unfortunately for me, I seem to have taken her place.

When I was about 3 weeks post partem I woke up one night with a horrible stomach ache. I went and laid on the living room couch hoping that it would soon pass. Eventually I went back to bed and in the morning, I made a mental note to bring it up with my doctor at A’s upcoming check-up. Well that check-up came and went and I completely forgot to mention the awful stomach ache. After another 3 weeks, I woke up once again with another horrible stomach ache and ended up vomiting and going back to bed. Again, I made the same mental note to speak with my doctor at the next baby check-up and AGAIN I forgot! Baby brain is real friends and it apparently hit me hard in the early days with A. Another 3 weeks passed and one Saturday night Kyle asked if I felt like KFC for dinner. I had actually never had KFC before (ahem sober) so he said that we had to have it. I ate one chicken wing and all of a sudden, the scariest pain I’ve ever experienced traveled from my upper abdomen all the way to my collarbone. I briefly thought I was having a heart attack. Kyle immediately wanted to phone an ambulance but I assured him that I would be fine. Never actually wanting to admit there is something wrong, I laid on the bed until I started to feel a bit better, but unfortunately the pain never fully went away this time. Sunday came and went and I was still feeling pain on the right side of my stomach so I decided I would go to the walk-in clinic on Monday morning.

On Monday morning, I saw a doctor at the clinic. He was pretty sure I had gallstones and sent me for some tests at the lab. The following day the clinic phoned and wanted me to come in to go over the test results. I bundled A up and drove my now extremely anxious and sore self back to the clinic. As I had decided to go through the walk-in clinic (note to self – Always go through my GP!) there was a different doctor working. This particular doctor was not convinced that I had gallstones and was very worried about the numbers that came back from my tests. He told me that my liver numbers were very concerning and began questioning me about my drinking habits. I gave him a bit of a confused look, looked at my 9-week-old daughter and back to him. “I haven’t had a drink in over year.” I said. “And before that, I ‘ve never been a big drinker.” He looked at me skeptically and continued to ask about my drinking to the point where I was clearly annoyed. He ordered an emergency ultrasound and I left the office. In the meantime, I had googled gallstone symptoms and realized that I had every single symptom. When I found out that my emergency ultrasound wasn’t going to happen for another 2.5 weeks, I finally decided it was time to go to the hospital.

Of course, by now it was 10pm at night and we had to take A out of her warm bassinet and drive to Emergency. Once we there I was admitted right away and they determined very quickly that I did indeed have gallstones. After a scan, they discovered that I had a couple gallstones that had actually gotten out of my gallbladder and were trapped in my bile duct. This was creating my now lovely yellow complexion, otherwise known as jaundice. The following day they booked an endoscopy to remove the stones that had escaped my gallbladder and the day after that I was scheduled to have my gallbladder removed.

The endoscopy was by far the hardest part. However, right as I was being wheeled away from my little family, A finally had a poop after 10 days of nothing. As a new mom, I had been fixated on this in between my gallbladder pain. I took this as a good sign and relaxed momentarily. But shortly after I remember waiting in the hallway, blind without my glasses, crying because I was so nervous for the procedure.  The nicest nurses and doctor performed the procedure trying to calm me down. All I have to say is thank goodness for sedation! I remember the camera starting to go down my throat, me starting to resist and then I was coming to and the procedure was done. The doctor would later tell me that I had one of the strongest gag reflexes that he’d ever seen… apparently, I put up quite the fight against the world’s nicest medical staff.

The next day I had my surgery and after having a c-section, this was a walk in the park. At this point, I was just happy that the whole ordeal was over and I wouldn’t ever have one of those terrible gallstone attacks ever again.

 

Moral of the story? Even when you’re a new mom, take the time to listen to your body

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