Appendicitis while Pregnant

Having appendicitis while pregnant

Appendicitis should be treated as a medical emergency and requires prompt surgery to remove the appendix. If an inflamed appendix is left untreated, it will eventually burst, allowing the infectious material to spill into the abdominal cavity. Read more below to learn more about appendicitis while pregnant.

If the appendix ruptures, peritonitis can occur, and this may be fatal if it's not treated.

Clearly, if you have appendicitis while pregnant, the life of your baby could be at serious risk as well as your own life.

Symptoms of appendicitis

Appendicitis presents with a number of classic symptoms, including:

  • dull pain around the upper abdomen and navel, becoming sharper as it moves across to the lower right side
  • feelings of nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal swelling
  • a fever of 99ºF to 102ºF
  • an inability to pass gas
  • painful urination
  • stomach cramps
  • constipation or diarrhea

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms may be confused with the ‘twinges' associated with later term pregnancy, and some women do not bother seeking medical advice until it's too late and the appendix has burst. Many women wrongly assume that the symptoms they are experiencing are the first signs of labor, especially if their pregnancy is in the third trimester.

Due to the changes in your body, it is easier to diagnose a ‘grumbling appendix' during the first and second trimesters.

Appendicitis while pregnant

An early diagnosis of appendicitis while pregnant is very important, because the longer the delay, the more likely it is that complications will arise. Most serious of these complications is perforation of the appendix. Should this occur during the third trimester, the fetal loss and preterm labor rates increase upwards of 36%.

The most common symptom of appendicitis in pregnant women is a pain in the lower right quadrant, although 70% will not have a fever. If you exhibit symptoms during the first and second trimesters, you will probably have an ultrasound to determine if you have an appendicitis.

Because diagnosis is more difficult in the third trimester, you will probably have a CT scan.

Surgery for appendicitis while pregnant

During the first and second trimesters, you should be able to have a laparoscopy for the surgery to remove the appendix; several small holes will be made in your abdomen, rather than one large incision. In the third trimester, a larger incision will be necessary, because the size of the uterus makes a laparoscopy impractical.

After the 24 week mark, fetal monitoring will be used to monitor the baby during surgery. Approximately 80% of women may experience preterm contractions, although most will not progress to labor. Only 5 to 14% of women will deliver prematurely following an appendectomy.

Following your surgery, you will be kept in hospital at least overnight and possibly for longer, depending on how you and your baby are doing.

Recovery from appendicitis surgery while pregnant

You will be required to stay off work for a week or more following your surgery, longer if you experienced complications or showed signs of preterm labor. Although you should move around to speed healing and keep your circulation moving, strenuous exercise should be avoided as should lifting heavy objects.

You will need to attend a follow-up appointment with your physician after a week or so. You will also have frequent appointments with your midwife to ensure that your pregnancy has been unaffected by the appendicitis.

Delivering your baby

Unless the surgery for your appendicitis is very close to your due date, it should not be necessary to change any plans that you have made for your baby's birth. Any questions or concerns that you have should be directed to your doctor well before your due date.

Summary of appendicitis while pregnant

Appendicitis is a potentially very serious condition that should always receive urgent medical attention. If you have appendicitis while pregnant, the wellbeing of your baby is at risk as well as your own.

If you experience any of the symptoms of appendicitis outlined above, always seek medical advice and don't be tempted to simply write them off as everyday pregnancy ‘twinges'.

Last Reviewed:
July 02, 2017
Last Updated:
October 17, 2017
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