Pregnancy is generally a happy, exciting time for new mothers; it is also a bad time for them to develop an illness such as appendicitis. Symptoms often mimic other illnesses; some symptoms of appendicitis can also mimic pregnancy signs. Leaving appendicitis untreated in the pregnant mother is potentially deadly.
The pregnant mother with an inflamed appendix experiences sudden pain that is unlike any other kind of pain she has ever felt. In general, this pain starts near the belly button and begins to move toward the lower right side of the abdomen; this pain gets progressively worse, especially with movement, sneezing, coughing or inhaling deeply. She can also lose her appetite, experience diarrhea or constipation, become nauseated, vomit, lose the ability to pass gas, experience abdominal swelling (different from her pregnancy), have a low grade fever (which will follow her other symptoms) and feel that if she could only have a bowel movement, she would feel better.
Mimics Other Illnesses
Appendicitis can easily mimic other abdominal or intestinal illnesses such as constipation, pelvic inflammatory disease and/or other gynecological illnesses, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal obstruction or adhesions. Because she is pregnant, the symptoms of appendicitis can also mimic some of her pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness and Braxton-Hicks contractions.
The doctor will begin his diagnostic process by taking the patient’s medical history, noting the pregnancy. As he performs the physical examination, he notes specific behavioral signs in his patient, such as guarding her abdomen; other signs he notes include rebound tenderness in the abdomen, Rovsing’s sign, Psoas sign and the Obturator sign. He may also request a urinalysis to rule out a urinary tract infection; a blood test may be taken to detect other signs of infection. A CAT scan can help diagnose appendicitis.
If appendicitis is diagnosed, the appendix will be removed; this will be done while ensuring the pregnancy and unborn child are not put into any danger. The baby and mother can be put into such danger from a possible bursting appendix that the need for surgery outweighs the risk surgery can present to the baby.
If the inflamed appendix is not removed, a recurring cycle of inflammation could begin; the abdominal lining could also become inflamed and an abscess could develop. The abscess is a pus-filled area of inflammation, indicating bacterial infection. If the inflamed appendix is still not removed, sepsis (poisoning from the infectious bacteria enters the bloodstream) could develop. In the case of a pregnant woman developing appendicitis, if her appendix is not removed, she could develop any one of these health complications; she and her baby could also die.