New research suggests that pregnant women are slightly more likely to develop kidney stones than non-pregnant women—especially when these kidney stones are occurring for the first time in that woman’s life. The development of kidney stones can pose additional risks and health complications for pregnant women suffering from this condition, and raise concerns in pregnant women about the condition’s threat to the health of their pregnancy.
Despite the alarming pain and other symptoms that accompany kidney stones, prompt diagnosis and treatment can remedy this condition and the other complications it brings, allowing pregnant mothers to move forward with a healthy pregnancy.
Kidney Stones While Pregnant: Symptoms to Monitor
Kidney stones are solid masses that develop when calcium binds with other materials in your urine, creating calcifications that build up and are unable to pass through the vessels that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder. As this buildup forms a blockage in those vessels, a number of kidney stone symptoms in pregnancy may develop, including:
- Pain when urinating. This is often sharp pain that can make urinating unbearable.
- Nausea and/or vomiting. The discomfort of kidney stones, as well as the buildup of urine in your kidneys, can make you feel sick.
- Blood in your urine. The development of hematuria in pregnancy can be very alarming to pregnant mothers who fear the blood is a sign of miscarriage or other health problems, although bloody urine caused by kidney stones is not a serious health concern by itself.
- Sharp back or abdominal pain. This may be a sign of urinary retention in pregnancy, caused by a kidney stone blockage that is backing up urine in one or both kidneys. Pregnant women should also be aware that urine buildup stretching and swelling the kidneys—a condition known as hydronephrosis—is also more likely in later stages of pregnancy as the baby is producing its own urine. For this reason, be aware that kidney stones could complicate your management of hydronephrosis in pregnancy.
Can Kidney Stones Early in Pregnancy Cause Miscarriage?
While kidney stones do not directly cause miscarriage, untreated kidney stones can lead to other health complications, such as preeclampsia and urinary tract infections, that could increase the risk of miscarriage. While this outcome is uncommon, it should be taken seriously by both patients and clinicians.
Treatment Options for Passing a Kidney Stone While Pregnant
Treatment options for kidney stones can vary depending on the size of the stone. In addition, pregnancy may restrict the types of treatment options your doctor recommends for your specific circumstances. Some of the most common kidney stone treatments include:
- Medication. Certain muscle relaxants may be prescribed to relax the ureters where kidney stones have formed a blockage.
- Breaking up stones with sound waves. This treatment will target stones with strong vibrations that reduce the size of stones and make them possible to pass. While non-invasive, it can be a painful procedure that may require sedation, which some pregnant women may prefer to avoid.
- Surgery. Invasive surgical procedures now offer minimal recovery time and may be necessary if other non-invasive procedures fail.
- Scope procedure. This may be an option for smaller stones, inserting a scope up your urethra and into your ureters to break up the stone. However, it may require a stent while you heal, and the procedure itself may require anesthesia.
How to Relieve Kidney Pain While Pregnant
While it’s essential that you seek out treatment for kidney stones as soon as possible, many pregnant women are understandably eager to alleviate their pain and prevent the development of future instances of kidney pain.
- Take a pain reliever recommended by your doctor. Since pregnant women are restricted from taking certain types of pain-relieving medications, such as ibuprofen, consult your doctor for a recommendation or prescription for a pregnancy-approved pain reliever while waiting for kidney stone treatments to offer relief.
- Drink plenty of water. If you haven’t been drinking water regularly, increasing your intake of water could dilute your urine and make kidney stones easier to pass. Even if drinking water isn’t sufficient to help pass kidney stones, drinking plenty of water throughout the day will reduce the risk of recurrent cases of kidney stones. Doctors recommend drinking between two to three quarts of water daily (64 to 96 ounces). Again, consult with your doctor to determine the right amount of daily water consumption while pregnant.
- Ask your doctor if you can cut back on calcium supplements. While some pregnant women are encouraged to take calcium supplements during pregnancy, this could be increasing the likelihood of kidney stones.
If you have developed symptoms of kidney stones, prompt treatment is key to minimizing the risk of health complications. Consult your doctor today to get a clear diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that addresses your condition while prioritizing the health of your pregnancy.