I don’t go into too many biological details, but here is your TMI warning. This post is about a bodily function in your body that many people don’t know or care about. I’m about to tell you what you need to know about gallstones and what a gallstone attack feels like. Fair warning.
Also, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I am just describing my experiences with gallstones for the benefit of others.
Your gallbladder regulates the amount of bile that reaches your stomach to help you digest your meals. Gallstones occur for unknown reasons and crystallize the bile which can cause blockages in between the gallbladder and the stomach. (Thanks, WebMD.)
These gallstone attacks are incredibly painful and can be a serious medical emergency. They can also sit quietly for years without your notice.
After I had my second baby, I started having some pain in my shoulders, chest and back. It would build up and then pass. To be completely honest here (TMI remember?), I thought the pains were internal gas and would just go away as I healed from giving birth.
Not only did the pain not go away, it got increasingly worse. In the first six month’s of my second child’s life, I had an increasingly painful episode about once a month. It got so bad that I was literally laying on the floor in a public restroom, in too much pain to even stand up.
I was scared and helpless and I had no idea what was going on with my body. I would search Google every time after I had an episode and not come up with any answers.
Let me describe the feelings – I would start to feel out of breath and feel some pressure in the center of my chest, just below my ribcage. My shoulders, chest and back, mostly on the right side, would start to feel a sharp pain. As things got worse, it would feel like a fist was inside the center of my chest (a little to the right) and squeezing me from the inside out. I could breath with effort, and no change in position made a difference to the level of pain.
After about 20-30 minutes had gone by, the pain would slowly (so slowly) recede. I was left shaky and cold and scared that the pain would return at any minute. Taking a nap afterward would make me feel a little better.
Finally one night I was looking around a mom forum when I found the answer. Another mom posted a question about the very things I had been feeling and I found out it was caused by gallstones. Just another example of social media opening my eyes to something entirely new to me.
Of course, I Googled gallstones and made an appointment with my doctor right away. It seemed a little silly going to my doctor and saying “I think I have gallstones.” But she didn’t laugh at me, she asked me questions about the pain and scheduled an ultrasound as soon as possible. The ultrasound showed that I did indeed have gallstones.
What a relief to know what was going on!
My doctor told me that as middle-aged (seriously?! well, I guess so) woman, who had more than one child, I had a higher risk level for gallstones. Before this, gallstones was not something I had heard of in relation to women in general and moms in particular. Gallstones is NOT something people include in the “What happens when you have kids” Guide.
I hope this post helps you if you’re struggling to know what is going on with your body, now or possibly in the future.
Stop by soon for the rest of the series, where I decide not to have surgery (yet) and how I manage my diet to minimize and avoid gallstone attacks.