I had severe gallstone attacks when I was just 20 weeks pregnant and had surgery 2 weeks postpartum. I wanted this blog post to provide a resource, as I get regular message from people reaching out who have gallstones and are concerned about the surgery, recovery and what life is like without a gallbladder.
My Health History
It is important that I start with not only my health history but my moms health history. I am half Native American, my mom is full, and Native American’s have the highest rate of gallstones in this country due to a genetic disposition.
My mom was 35 and just had my little sister when she had a massive gallstone attack that put her into Intensive Care and ultimately into a coma for over two weeks. She was given a 50% chance of surviving but thank god she made it through, it was just a really horrible time in our lives. I am so grateful she is a survivor and that her health returned for the most part. Except she is now a type 2 diabetic and has to give herself insulin several times a day. She does still use a pump and takes several medications to help with balancing out her sugar but that is the result of having a severe gallstone attack. At the time my mom was pregnant with my sister and began experiencing gallstone attacks and had been scheduled for surgery, but not before the gallstones had moved into her pancreas and her pancreas complete shut down. Now she has no gallbladder, no pancreas and is constantly reminded of that every single day.
Being Pregnant with Gallstones
My story is some what similar to my moms, but I did make it to the surgery. So I got pregnant and was immediately sick with severe morning sickness, and could barely eat. Again I resorted to take out, and was not completely educated at the time on what a pregnant body needs in terms of nutrition. Anyways by 15 weeks I was having sharp pains in my upper right side every time I ate something high in fat, but I thought maybe it was just symptoms of being pregnant.
My First Gallbladder Attack
I will never forget my first gallbladder attack. Tony and I were about to go canoeing and at this point I was 20 weeks. By the time we had carried the canoe to the water I was doubled over in pain, it was a blinding pain that radiated from my right side and took my breath away. It was so bad I almost called the ambulance right then and there, but got the strength to go to my parents who later took me to the hospital. My mom knew instantly what was happening and she made sure the doctors did a ultra sound to confirm I had gallstones. She was right!
Note: I would suggest if your having pain in your right side under your rib cage to make sure you go for an ultrasound because the doctors didn’t think it was my gallbladder. Im so thankful my mom knew and was there to ensure I was properly taken care of.
What is the surgery like?
I hated the idea of going for surgery and of course I pictured the worst case scenario. The day of my surgery I went to the hospital, got changed into the hospital gown and was brought into the pre-op room by my self. I had anxiety at this point and a nurse came in an gave me a couple little pills that were like lorazapams and it made me feel a lot more calm. It really was a simple surgery about an 1 hour or so, and I woke up feeling bruised and my chest hurt. After the surgery I was brought into the post-op/recovery room, and was there for another hour until I recovered and I was released to my parents who than brought me home.
Were you in a lot of pain a few days after the surgery?
This is the question that I was really wanting to know before I had the surgery, because I’m a baby when it comes to pain and to be honest I had expected a lot worse than it actually was. So right after the surgery I was pretty out of it because of the medications I was given, but within a couple hours I felt okay and was able to walk around but I definitely felt sore still. The worst part was the pain between my shoulders and my upper back from the air they use to blow into your body to remove the gallbladder. My incisions kind of stung a little and I felt like I had a really bad bruise.
How long until you felt better?
This is the question I get asked the most because everyone wants to know when they can return back to their normal schedules. For me personally I felt sore but I could move by the second day. I did everything a little slower, could not pick up anything and I was actually allowed to get back to breast feeding my daughter at that time (24 hours to get the medications out of my system). It wasn’t for almost 2 weeks after my surgery that I started to feel back to normal.
What is my diet like now?
I try very hard to stay away from anything that has too much fat in it, and I eat higher fibre foods. For the most part I don’t notice a huge difference except when I have dairy and take out, so I make a lot of meals at home and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. When you eat too much fatty foods your gallbladder is no longer there to filter the fat out and you end up either being bloated, gassy or have diarrhea. I suggest lots of water and high fibre to make sure you don’t feel like that.