Pregnant in Pain With Gall-Bladder Stones
December 9, 2012 10:26 AM   Subscribe

The pain is there, but the gall-bladder isn't.

IKYNMD, but a friend of mine is pregnant in her 7th month. She had her gall bladder removed a few years ago due to excruciating pain. That didn't solve the problem though and is still suffering rather badly with what appear to be gall-bladder/liver stones.

She's had 2 babies since and now another, during each pregnancy the pain just gets worse. She's on her way to see yet another doctor as this is written. I'd like to compile some healing resources for her - alternative, conventional, homeopath and allopathic and send them her way.

What are some excellent therapies, diets, supplements, treatments out there she can do that are safe for pregnancy and for post-partum.

Much obliged for any help.
posted by watercarrier to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
I'm sorry, but she needs to see a doctor. There are several totally different things that can cause pain after gallbladder removal, it can be adhesions, bile problems, or something else entirely. I bet she'd love a pregnancy massage though, everyone loves those, right?
posted by crabintheocean at 10:42 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

alternative ... homeopath ... supplements ... treatments

Please don't waste your friend's time with made-up things that if effective would in some cases violate the known laws of physics and in others potentially harm her or the baby. Things that have not gone through real clinical trials are in no cases reliably "safe for pregnancy and for post-partum". If she's in chronic pain, she needs to see top-notch medical doctors, period.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:21 AM on December 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

When I was having gallbladder pain, the one thing that helped a bit was a particular sort of gentle stretching, which I discovered by trial and error. So, maybe a book or DVD of "Yoga for Pregnancy," or a gift certificate for a class? The meditative breathing and slow, focussed movement can be very helpful in any situation involving pain and stress. Very soothing music, or poetry or fiction read aloud, can be great distractions.

I'd be extremely cautious about any supplements or major dietary adjustments, as some of them can do lots more harm than good. For example, many people will fervently recommend turmeric or curcumin, but these can aggravate gallbladder distress. For anything in that department, I'd stick with doctors' recommendations, especially during pregnancy.

Nothing beats a friend to say, "there, there." Good for you, and for her. Anything else you can do is gravy.
posted by Corvid at 11:22 AM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Last time I had anything remotely like gallbladder pain it was actually that I am literally full of shit. Which is a very common thing during pregnancy as well, easily treated with stool softeners and fibre. The other possibilities are Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction, adhesions, kidney stones, liver failure, fatty liver, ovarian cysts and the list goes on. Doctors are key here and if her doctor isn't doing anything about chronic pain then she needs to find another one and use the phrase 'interfering with my day-to-day life' and probably do a little diary as well. Food, activity, digestion, pain levels and so on.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:54 PM on December 9, 2012

Perhaps she is experiencing severe GERD. Sounds far fetched but it happened to me...

During my first pregnancy and right after the baby was born I experienced extreme back and abdomen pain that had me laying screaming on the floor at night or crawling to the toilet to vomit while my terrified husband held the newborn. I had recently given birth so I knew my pain scale was pretty finely tuned and I was experiencing pain far worse than child birth. My doctor sent me for the gall bladder u/s but told me she though it was GERD. I assumed she was WRONG because gas can't cause this much pain and besides, I didn't even have "heartburn", but out of desperation I tried Nexium and one week later, no pain.

The initial test the doctor suggested I try to see if it might be gas was taking the maximum dose of Gaviscon right when I felt the pain starting and if it helps at all, you've got an answer. This was safe for nursing. My Nexium is safe to take during pregnancy. She should consider asking her doctor if this is a possibility for her.

A pregnant woman does not need any untested alternative, homeopath or allopathic "remedies" she should stick to things proven *not* to hurt the baby.
posted by saradarlin at 12:02 AM on December 10, 2012

No such thing as 'liver stones' (just to clarify).

If stretching helps with the pain in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen, that would suggest that the pain is not coming from the gallbladder. Not all pain in the right upper quadrant is "gallbladder pain", especially in people who do not have a gallbladder. It is chronic right upper quadrant abdominal pain with no known cause. geek anachronism gives a decent list of possibilities (although ovarian cysts would be unlikely to cause upper abdominal pain), but it is also possible to still have biliary pain due to stones or other biliary problem, even without a gallbladder. Has she been worked up for this stuff?

There is also a known problem called post-cholecystectomy syndrome that I would recommend taking a look at. There can be multiple causes for this problem (some are the same as the ones noted in the other link). I'm not her doctor, this is not medical advice.... She should talk to a GI specialist.

It is safe to take Tylenol for pain during pregnancy, and it is safe to try some reflux medications if that diagnosis seems like a possibility at all, but she should discuss this with her OB.

Aside from that, things like yoga/stretching, massage, heat (like a bag of rice that you can heat and put over the affected area), are all things that could potentially help and are unlikely to cause harm. If it seems to respond at all to movement/yoga/stretching then physical therapy might be an option. She could try acupuncture, but I have no reason to believe it would help, just that it wouldn't hurt. Pain during pregnancy is tough. I'm pregnant and having chronic pain issues myself and so I have sympathy.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:13 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Keep after the doctors. An acquaintance of mine continued to have debilitating gallstone attacks after her gallbladder was removed. This dragged on for an extended period of time; finally a new doctor discovered a stone had been left behind lodged in a duct. One more surgery to remove that, and no more attacks.
posted by superna at 3:01 PM on December 10, 2012

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