Pregnant women are at risk for developing gallbladder problems. Increased hormone levels during pregnancy can interfere with gallbladder function. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that pregnancy increases the risk for developing gallstones--small deposits that form inside the gallbladder system. In some cases, gallbladder problems decrease after delivery of the baby. Gallbladder complications are generally watched during pregnancy; however, if complications from gallstones or gallbladder disease worsen surgery may be required.
Gallstones moving through the gallbladder system or an inflamed or infected gallbladder can cause pain in the right abdomen near the ribcage. Pain may present as a gnawing or nagging sensation and can range from sharp to dull and throbbing. A pregnant woman may experience pain after eating, especially if fatty foods are consumed, or may have symptoms at night more than during the day. She may also experience pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades or around the right shoulder. Pain usually comes on suddenly, builds in intensity and then plateaus in intensity until subsiding. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that abdominal pain from gallstones can last several hours.
A pregnant woman with gallbladder problems may experience digestive upset. She may notice a full sensation after eating and have increased flatulence and belching. She may also feel nauseous or have the urge to vomit after eating as well. Some women experience sudden diarrhea, which can result in several loose stools throughout the day.
Pregnant women who also suffer from heartburn may have a difficult time distinguishing gallbladder-related symptoms from indigestion. Keeping track of symptoms as they happen throughout the day may help a pregnant woman and her physician better determine whether the symptoms are gallbladder-related.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases warns that gallbladder problems can cause serious complications, such as infection or gallbladder rupture. Pregnant women with abdominal pain that lasts longer than five hours should seek immediate medical care as this may indicate a deeper gallbladder problem. Chills, fever, a rapid heartbeat and yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, also known as jaundice, and sudden vomiting or clay-colored stools are additional emergency symptoms. Any single symptom or combination of emergency symptoms can occur with gallbladder complications. Severe gallbladder complications put both mother and baby at risk and require immediate medical management.