By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
It is common knowledge that pregnancy can be the initial trigger for a gallbladder problem or can aggravate a pre-existing gallbladder condition. Sometimes a gallbladder problem can worsen after a woman gives birth.
The main reason that gallbladder problems are more common in women than men is because women have much higher levels of oestrogen in their body. Oestrogen promotes a higher concentration of cholesterol to be secreted into the bile, which then enters the gallbladder. Too much cholesterol in the bile makes it thicker and prone to developing sludge and sometimes, eventually stones. The sky high levels of oestrogen during pregnancy can significantly aggravate this situation.
If gallbladder disease causes an obstruction to the flow of bile in pregnancy, this condition is called cholestasis of pregnancy. It occurs in roughly one in one thousand pregnancies and is most common in the third trimester of pregnancy, when hormone levels are at their peak. The condition is more common in women with a family history of gallbladder disease, older women (older than 35 years) and in women who have had several children.
Cholestasis just means obstruction to the normal flow of bile. Pregnancy hormones affect gallbladder function, resulting in slowing or stopping the flow of bile. If the bile flow is stopped or slowed down, this causes a build up of bile acids in the liver which can spill into the bloodstream. This means there will be too much bilirubin in the bloodstream, which can cause jaundice and other symptoms.