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How to deal with kidney stones during pregnancy

Chaunie Brusie is writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. Her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, a guide to young motherhood, was released in May 2014. She writes about life as a young mom of three.

As if growing a baby wasn't hard enough, there's this pregnancy ailment

They say the only thing comparable to giving birth is kidney stones, so what happens when you have to experience both?

Fun fact: Kidney stones have been found in Egyptian mummies as old as 7,000 years old.

Not-so-fun fact: During pregnancy, kidney stones are more likely to develop during the last few weeks of pregnancy, meaning if you're pregnant and you get one, you'll have two very painful things squeezing their way out of your body.

While kidney stones are relatively rare during pregnancy, affecting about only one in 1,500 pregnancies, the extra calcium that many women consume while pregnant combined with a decreased ability of the kidneys to process that calcium can put some preggos at risk for developing the fun of a kidney stone.

Younger women, in general, are at less risk of developing kidney stones than men (hence why the menfolk insist on comparing kidney stones to childbirth — I'm still not buying it). "The rate is similar to reproductive-aged women who are not pregnant," notes Lisa M. Valle, D.O., with Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. However, certain lifestyle and genetic factors, such as a family history of kidney stones, gout, high blood pressure or bed rest can place individuals at higher risk.

Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of a kidney stone can be similar to the general aches and pains during pregnancy. "Acute pain over the flank area with or without pain and discomfort in the pelvic or lower abdomen are common signs/symptoms of kidney stones during pregnancy," explains Dr. Valle. Because it can be so difficult to determine if localized pain is pregnancy-related or something else, Dr. Valle cautions that it's always important for a pregnant woman to head into her doctor's office to get it checked out. "It is important for expectant moms to see a physician or go to the hospital if they are experiencing any type of back pain or pelvic pain," she says.

Kidney stones may be a bit of a laughing matter to men talking about their version of having a baby, but to women who are actually having a baby, it's no joke — and can even be deadly. "The presence of kidney stones can increase the risk of a kidney infection and thus maternal sepsis," Dr. Valle explains. "If this occurs, the fetal complications include an increased risk for preterm contractions and delivery. Sepsis, if left untreated, can lead to death."

Luckily, even for how dangerous they can be, diagnosing and treating kidney stones during pregnancy is actually relatively simple. While kidney stones in nonpregnant women are normally diagnosed with a CT scan, during pregnancy, a regular pelvic ultrasound will be used to pick up those stones and avoid any radiation to the fetus. "An ultrasound is acceptable but it is less sensitive in detecting a stone," Dr. Valle says.

Treatment includes a lot of watching and waiting, so, hey, in a way maybe it's just prepping you for that big labor day that will be coming soon enough, right? "Treatment is generally expectant management since approximately 80 percent of stones pass spontaneously," explains Dr. Valle. "This generally involves fluids and pain relief." She also notes that a consult with a urologist might be ordered if a woman is unable to pass the stone on her own and that the kidney stones be removed via minimally invasive techniques.

So remember pregnant ladies — drink that water up and when in doubt, get that pain checked out.

More on pregnancy

The scary condition that can cause miscarriage in healthy pregnancies
How far apart do you space pregnancies?
Pregnancy myths debunked

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