Kidney Stones During Pregnancy

A kidney stone begins as a tiny piece of crystal in the kidney. When the crystal stays in the kidney, over time, additional crystals join it and form a larger kidney stone. Most stones leave the kidney when they are still small enough to pass easily out of the body. Larger stones can become trapped in the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder, causing pain and perhaps blocking the urine from flowing to the bladder and out of the body. The pain often worsens over 15 to 60 minutes until it is severe. The pain may subside once the stone is no longer blocking the flow of urine, and it often goes away when the stone passes into the bladder.

During pregnancy women can be at risk for developing kidney stones due to changes within the body. Some changes during pregnancy that can effect kidney stone formation are: increased kidney filtration, increased amounts of calcium released into the urine and the release of certain hormones that can slow the transport of urine and increase chances of an infection or stone.

The diagnosis and treatment of kidney stones during pregnancy are more difficult because radiation from x-rays should be kept to a minimum, making the diagnosis of stones less certain. Low dose CT scans or x-rays may be used in these situations to limit the amount of radiation exposure. Once a stone is diagnosed, the decision to treat or monitor it depends on factors such as whether pain is controlled, infection is at hand, or kidney function is impaired.

Concerns about possible health risks of surgery to remove a stone, when a woman is pregnant, can also restrict the surgical options available. Pregnant women should consult with their doctor about the safest treatments for kidney stones. One of the easiest and significant steps a woman can take to help prevent the development of a kidney stone, during pregnancy, is to maintain high water intake. This will help dilute the urine and minimize the chances of the formation of a stone.

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