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Kidney stones affect both the mother and the unborn baby, negatively impacting health, development, and delivery. Now, being pregnant doesn’t necessarily increase the chances you’re going to develop kidney stones, but it is important to note that being pregnant can increase the difficulty in remedying them… and every pregnant, or may-become pregnant, woman should pay special attention to habits that discourage kidney stones.
Why Should Pregnant Women Be Aware of Kidney Stones?
Aside from being extremely painful, kidney stones can affect the fetus and complicate birth — sometimes even causing preterm labor. Addressing kidney stones early is absolutely vital for drastically reducing the likelihood of premature delivery.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
There are a variety of factors that contribute to kidney stones, including:
Not consuming enough water will tend to promote urine that is highly concentrated with nutrients like calcium or phosphorus, dramatically increasing the risk for developing kidney stones.
Genetic factors also play a role in kidney stone formation. Families who have a high incidence of hypercalciuria, a condition where an abnormal amount of calcium is leached out into the urine, will have a heightened risk for developing kidney stones.
If gastrointestinal sensitivity is a problem for you, take note. Chronic inflammation of the bowels can increase your risk for developing kidney stones, especially during pregnancy.
Pregnant women typically need additional nutrients, including calcium. Too much calcium, however, can strain the kidneys. Additionally, calcium absorption is increased during pregnancy. Both of these factors can elevate the risk for developing stones.
Anatomical and physiological changes during pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of developing kidney stones. Chronic and persistent urinary tract infections may be a symptom of kidney stones. Pregnant women who suffer from UTIs should mention and discuss the problem with their healthcare provider.
What to do?
For most people, a stone is a painful experience; yet, around 70-80% of stones pass spontaneously without intense medical intervention. If an aggressive approach is required, surgery may be considered or even required.
X-rays are a method of choice for determining stone presence; however, most health professionals discourage their use during pregnancy. Radiation is emitted from X-ray machines, possibly affecting the developing fetus. Currently, very little research is available to determine the exact effects radiation has on both the mother and the unborn child. With the risks of surgery and anesthesia, not to mention the risk of radiation exposure, minimally-invasive approaches are often the best course of action for pregnant women.
A ureteroscopy involves placing a thin tube in the urethra to the site of the kidney stones, effectively removing them from the body. As the complication rate for ureteroscopy during pregnancy is relatively low, it’s no wonder why physicians are becoming increasingly fond of using this stone-removal method.
Shockwave therapy uses sound waves to target and fragment stones and is a highly-utilized, minimally-invasive treatment. While it’s safe for most people, it’s not clear if it’s a viable option for pregnant women. The effects of sound waves on the developing fetus is too much of a risk, and most researchers and experts discourage the practice.
Conservative management like bed rest and hydration can encourage stone passage. Medications aren’t good during pregnancy as most are contraindicated as the use of drugs may interfere with fetal health.
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