Kidney Stones and Pregnancy: What Every Woman Should Know

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on

Pregnant women can get kidney stones

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. [1]

What Causes Kidney Stones?

There are a variety of factors that contribute to kidney stones, including:

Fluid Intake

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. [2]

Your Genes

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. [3]

Bowel Irritation

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. [4]

Calcium Intake

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. [5]

UTIs

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. [6]

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

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. [7] 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. [8]

Ureteroscopy

A ureteroscopy involves placing a thin tube in the urethra to the site of the kidney stones, effectively removing them from the body. [9] 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. [10]

Shockwaves

Shockwave therapy uses sound waves to target and fragment stones and is a highly-utilized, minimally-invasive treatment. [11] While it’s safe for most people, it’s not clear if it’s a viable option for pregnant women. [12] The effects of sound waves on the developing fetus is too much of a risk, and most researchers and experts discourage the practice. [13]

Patience

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. [14]

Preventing Kidney Stones

Obviously, avoiding kidney stones in the first place is the most ideal solution. Although there are no guarantees, the best way to prevent kidney stones during pregnancy is by promoting normal function of the kidneys by maintaining a healthy weight, staying hydrated, and eating kidney supporting foods.

Were kidney stones a problem for you during pregnancy? How did you deal with them? Please leave a comment below and share your experience with us!

References (14)
  1. Proia L, Lippa A, Valente A. Review on renal calculosis in pregnancy. Clinical Therapeutics. 1997 December;148(12):667-73.
  2. Carter MR, Green BR. Renal calculi: emergency department diagnosis and treatment. Emergency Medical Practice. 2011 July;13(7):1-17.
  3. Bushinsky DA, Asplin JR, Grynpas MD, Evan AP, Parker WR, Alexander KM, Coe Fl. Calcium oxalate stone formation in genetic hypercalciuric stone-forming rats. Kidney International. 2002 March;61(3):975-87.
  4. McConnell N, Campbell S, Gillanders I, Rolton H, Danesh B. Risk factors for developing renal stones in inflammatory bowel disease. BJU International. 2002 June;89(9):835-41.
  5. Leanne Kolnick, MD, Bryan D. Harris, MD, David P. Choma, MD, PhD, and Neesha N. Choma, MD, MPH. Hypercalcemia in Pregnancy: A Case of Milk-Alkali Syndrome. Journal of General Internal Medicine. August 2011; 26(8): 939-942.
  6. Marlow RA. Nephrolithiasis in pregnancy. American Family Physician. 1989 September;40(3):185-9.
  7. Buchholz NP, Biyabani R, Sulaiman MN, Talati J. Urolithiasis in pregnancy--a clinical challenge. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 1998 September;80(1):25-9.
  8. Denstedt JD, Razvi H. Management of urinary calculi during pregnancy. The Journal of Urology. 1992 September;148(3 Pt 2):1072-4.
  9. Evans HJ, Wollin TA. The management of urinary calculi in pregnancy. Current Opinion in Urology. 2001 July;11(4):379-84.
  10. Semins MJ, Matlaga BR. Management of stone disease in pregnancy. Current Opinion in Urology. 2010 March;20(2):174-7. doi: 10.1097/MOU.0b013e3283353a4b.
  11. Monga M. Treating urinary tract stones: common questions about a common problem. Minnesota Medicine. 2010 August;93(8):36-8.
  12. Ackermann D, Merz V, Marth D, Zehntner C. Clinical experiences with extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy. Swiss Medical Weekly. 1989 July 1;119(26):935-40.
  13. Asgari MA, Safarinejad MR, Hosseini SY, Dadkhah F. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy of renal calculi during early pregnancy. BJU International. 1999 October;84(6):615-7.
  14. Maikranz P, Coe FL, Parks JH, Lindheimer MD. Nephrolithiasis and gestation. Baillière's Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 1987 December;1(4):909-19.d

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • Tiphany

    I had kidney stones when I was pregnant. I was in extreme pain and ended up in the hospital for five days on the best pain killers they could give me that wouldn’t affect the pregnancy. By the last day the pain killers had little effect on taking my pain away. They placed a stent and my pain was managed but I was miserable the rest of my pregnancy with the stent and the constant pressure of needing to urinate even immediately after relieving my bladder. My mother and I seem to have to have lithotripsy every 2 years. My mother just got diagnosed with scarring which is not allowing the stones to pass and will take surgery to fix it. The doctor has told me that if I get pregnant again, which I am, that I need to stand on all fours for 10 minutes a day to alleviate the pressure on my bladder and he believes that will prevent any problems with kidney stones during the pregnancy. Fingers crossed.

  • chelsea paurus

    I am 17 weeks pregnant and went to the er with bad back pain on my left side. They told me it is a kidney stone but cannot do any testing to prove that it for sure is a stone. How can I know for sure? Tiphany, what were your symptoms while pregnant with kidney stone?

  • Jess

    I had kidney stones with my first pregnancy. I’d developed my first ever UTI in early pregnancy. My MD described antibiotics. Within 3 days of stopping the prescription, it would return. I had recurring back pain, but I also commuted 2+ hours to work. One day I was having contractions at about 15 weeks. My MD said just drink more water, it was dehydration. That frustrated me because I felt I was drinking a ton of water. The RN (I work in the hospital) knew me and asked if my MD told me I had blood in my urine. I said no. My MD placed me on daily macrobid. A few weeks later, I woke with horrible pinching back pain. I vomited everything including water and Tylenol. I was in extreme pain for about 6 hours. It was the middle of the night and the on call MD discouraged me from the local ER. They couldn’t do much due to my pregnancy. All she could do was offer an rx for Vicodin ( which I refused to fill). I never saw if the stone passed. I was really shaky and weak for about 5 days. I continued on the macrobid until delivery. My MD tried to get me to carry a sieve with me at first, but my job entailed patient consults all over the hospital and I didn’t find it practical to carry that thing around. I told her Im pretty sure Id feel another stone coming and get the sieve then. After the ordeal with the stone, delivery wasn’t bad. I had both naturally with just a low dose of fetynal. I had no complications my second pregnancy and my second child was born 8 lbs 7 oz at 38 weeks. I had a lot of stress in my first pregnancy and wonder if this wonder if that contributed to my kidney trouble.

  • heather

    Ultrasound can be done to check for stones. I have a 14 yr history of stones and am 33 wks with baby #2. Good luck!

  • Angela

    I am 30 weeks pregnant and have just had my stones verifed via ultrasound.

  • poppyangel

    I am 18 weeks pregnant with my first child and never had kidney stones before although as a child i did suffer with a kidney disease so always knew I would have a weakness there. 3 days ago I starting having the most awful pain in my left kidney! It comes in a wave of pain which builds and builds and then it also occurs in my abdomen (the front of the kidney). It lasts for about 15 minutes, then slowly fades. Is this a common sign of stones? After 3 attacks my partner said we are going to A&E. Spent 4 hours having tests done, then they kept me in at the antenatal assessment ward. Co-codamol and morphine couldn’t take the pain away. I had an ultrasound, as a CT scan is out of the question when your pregnant. The scan showed nothing – but they said it is hard to see stones with that sort of scan! They said I could go home and call back if the pain gets worse. I am still having regular painful attacks. I am scared as I have no idea how long it will last!

  • Jeannette

    That is a great description of kidney stones. My pain came in waves too. My worst case was passing a stone that was 6mm. I was in very bad pain that started in waves and ended up as straight pain that wouldn’t go away. After 3 days I finally decided to go see a specialist and schedule a surgery to have it removed. But an hour after meeting with him the pain stopped. I passed the stone the next day. It was huge. The pain is from it moving from the kidney through the ureter to he bladder. Once it’s in the bladder it rarely causes pain. And then it’s usually passed. It is no fun. I was pregnant during that ordeal but I am now 26 weeks pregnant with my 4th and I’m going through a bout with a kidney stone.

  • Cristina Bori

    Ftm. 21 weeks went to the hospital for bad pains. Turned oUT to be kidney stones. No blockages according to ultrasound. How long does it take to pass? The pain is unbearable today.

  • Sonya

    I had 6 large kidney stones in each if my two pregnancies. If I have elective surgery to remove all stones before I conceive, is there a good chance I will have a better pregnancy? Can these issues be avoided or reduced?

  • Asyakirin R Lee

    I am now roughly 18 weeks pregnant with my second currently when one day i had a very sharp pain from my abdomen to the back. Never knew it was stones. The pain came in waves indeed and the pain makes me keep feeling the need to push.. the pain also made me vomitted. It was horrible. They found a 9 mm stone in my urethra and its causing urine blockage therefore the unbearable pain. They had me on morphine for painkiller for 5 days but it was too horrible and they had to put a stent in me. That was when i was ard 11 weeks pregnant? The stent was indeed a great help from the unbearable pain but now it seems more painful. The constant feeling of having to empty an empty bladder is definitely a no joke. Can we request for removal of stone at 20 plus weeks or smth? Cause the pain especially the pressure on my bladder caused by the baby is definitely hurting so much and having a 10 mth old to look after together is no joke. Or is there any ways to reduce the pain due to pressure? Any mummies experienced before? Thanks ♡

  • Asyakirin R Lee

    Hi tiphany, did u manage to gave birth normally even with the stent? I was told by the doctors that being pregnant increases the risk of infections caused by the stent. Was it true? How often do they change your stent? I’m scheduled to have a change every 3 to 4 months but i just can’t imagine going through anesthesia again.

  • Chelsey

    I’m 27 weeks pregnant and a week ago tomorrow I had a kidney stone. It was 6 mm. I felt as if I needed to Uniate all day even with an empty bladder and I was aching bad down in my urine area. So I had had enough and went to the hospital. On the way there I got s terrible pain in my right side and it got unbearable. I threw up and could barely handle the pain. I went in on Monday and passed it on my own around nine the next night. I had an X-ray done and ultra sound and it showed one. It was a terrible experience. With my first pregnancy I didn’t have any problems.

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  • Noël ILL

    Hi! I am not pregnant but I’m very prone to kidney stones and so I thought I would look up kidney stones and pregnancy because it is a concern I have if I ever do decide to get pregnant. I have had a stone pass on its own, but not after a trip to the hospital because the pain was so bad. Then a week later, another came down! And unfortunately that stone got stuck and I had to have it surgically removed and have a stint put in. The stint was extremly uncomfortable for me so a week later the urologist’s assistant took it out. She pulled it out really fast and the urologist briefly mentioned I might have kidney muscle spasms, but maybe not. Well, about 45 min after my stint was removed, I got my first kidney muscle spasm and it was even more painful than the kidney stone pain! Worst pain I have ever felt and the pain would do exactly as you discribed. It would start up and get worse and than slowly die down and it would come in waves. So maybe you might be having kidney muscle spasms. What sort of help the pain a little bit for me was getting a hot steaming wash cloth and holding it over my side where the pain was and just keep dipping the hot water on to the cloth and putting it over the pain.

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  • Karen

    I’ve never had an issue with stones in the past until I was pregnant. I have three children now and developed calcium kidney stones with each pregnancy. There’s a five year gap between my second and third child and for those five years I was fine. I just had my third baby six months ago and developed a 15mm kidney stone! Very fortunate it didn’t move while I was pregnant but now it has and I’ll will be getting surgery tomorrow. My uerologist said it’s not connected to pregnancy but I don’t know how it couldn’t be?….

  • Jenna

    23 weeks I went into hospital with what I thought was labour the next day I passed 5mm kidney stone
    Had scan was told one 9mm stone left
    36weeks now and had odd periods cramps so naturally thought baby’s down (3/5th engaged) that’s the cause
    Over pass two days I’ve passed two 4mm kidney stone with no pain and caught them out of chance

    Could my big one broken down
    Or could scan of missed them 😳

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