Diarrhea During Pregnancy

What It Means and How to Deal With It

The woman wake up for go to restroom. People with diarrhea problem concept
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Stomach and digestive issues are common during pregnancy. You may hear plenty about morning sickness and constipation, but what about diarrhea? Although it may not get as much attention, diarrhea is another issue that women have to deal with. Here’s what you need to know about the causes and safety of diarrhea during pregnancy and how to get through it.

Some women consider diarrhea an early sign of pregnancy. It could be. The hormone changes around the time of pregnancy can cause stomach issues and even lead to diarrhea. However, breast tenderness, fatigue, and nausea are much more common symptoms of early pregnancy.

Diarrhea during late pregnancy may be a sign that delivery is getting closer. Some women report diarrhea, heartburn, or nausea and vomiting right before they go into labor. Of course, women get diarrhea for many reasons, and it can develop at any time during pregnancy—not just at the beginning or the end.

Causes 

Pregnant women can get diarrhea as a result of anything from hormones to a stomach virus. Here are some of the pregnancy-related causes of diarrhea.

  • Body Changes: During pregnancy, you’ll experience changes in your hormones and your body. These changes can affect your stomach and digestive tract. You may have nausea and vomiting, constipation, or even diarrhea.
  • Diet: Pregnancy can lead to healthier eating. Sometimes a sudden change to healthier foods can lead to a change in bowel movements, too. You may have to give your body a little time to adjust if you go from burgers and fries to fruits and salads all at once.
  • Prenatal Vitamins: There are many different brands of prenatal vitamins. Some are more likely to cause constipation, and some can lead to looser stools. If you think you’re having diarrhea because of your vitamin, you should talk to your doctor and ask for a recommendation for another brand.

Diarrhea during pregnancy can also develop from something that has nothing to do with pregnancy such as:

Symptoms 

Diarrhea is when you have bowel movements more often and looser in consistency than you would normally have. Here’s what to look for:

  • Two or more watery or loose bowel movements in a day (24 hours)
  • The feeling of having to run to the bathroom 
  • Cramping
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating

Treatment

While you’re pregnant, you may experience morning sickness or heartburn. Diarrhea is just another uncomfortable inconvenience you may have to get through. Here are some tips for dealing with diarrhea during pregnancy.

  1. Give it time. Diarrhea often clears up on its own. If you have mild diarrhea without any other symptoms (fever, pain, cramping), you can wait a few days to see if goes away. Diarrhea that results from a stomach bug or food issue will often go away on its own.
  2. Hydrate your body. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially when you’re pregnant. Diarrhea removes water from your body, so drink enough fluids especially water. Since you also lose electrolytes through diarrhea, other liquids such as chicken or vegetable broth and electrolyte replacement solutions are helpful. But, you may want to avoid dairy, sugary drinks, coffee, tea, and energy drinks, since they can make the situation worse.
  3. Watch your diet: While you have diarrhea, try to eat foods that are easy to digest and don’t irritate or stimulate the stomach and digestive tract. The good old BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) plus some extra nutrients in other easy to digest foods (potatoes, chicken and vegetable soup, lean meats) can help until the diarrhea has passed. You’ll want to stay away from fried, spicy, and high-fat foods.
  1. Avoid anti-diarrhea medication. Stay away from over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat diarrhea. Not all OTC medications are safe for pregnant moms. If it is necessary, your doctor will recommend or prescribe medication for you based on the severity of your symptoms.
  2. Keep it clean: Loose stools can make it easier for the bacteria in the colon to travel to the urinary tract and cause an infection (UTI). Cleanliness can prevent the spread of germs to other parts of your body and other people. After using the bathroom always wipe from front to back and change the paper before wiping again. You will also want to keep your undergarments clean and wash your hands frequently.

Is It Dangerous?

Diarrhea can be mild and pass quickly, or it can be more serious. The loss of a lot of water through your bowels can lead to dehydration, and dehydration can be harmful during pregnancy. So, to prevent diarrhea from becoming dangerous, be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids to replace the what you’re losing. You should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration such as:

  • Urinating less often
  • Urine that is very dark yellow or orange 
  • Urine that has a strong smell
  • A dry mouth 
  • A headache
  • Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, and as if you may faint

When to Call a Doctor

Although diarrhea is usually not a serious issue, it can be a sign of an infection or lead to dehydration. So, you should notify the doctor if:

  • Your diarrhea is getting worse instead of better
  • Diarrhea lasts more than a day or two
  • You notice blood in the toilet
  • You have other symptoms along with diarrhea such as fever or vomiting 
  • You have any signs of dehydration
  • You're experiencing pain in your lower abdomen
  • You are having contractions
  • You aren't feeling your baby move as much as you did before

Severe Diarrhea

If you have more than just a mild case of diarrhea, you should talk to your doctor. Your doctor may want to test your blood and send a stool sample to the lab to see if you have an infection. Depending on the results, you may have to take an antibiotic or another medication. If you are becoming dehydrated, the doctor may order intravenous (IV) fluids to get your body back in balance.

Diarrhea and Miscarriage

If you get diarrhea, you may worry that it could cause a problem with your pregnancy or that it’s a sign of miscarriage. But, diarrhea isn’t a typical cause or symptom of miscarriage.

While some women do experience diarrhea around the time of a pregnancy loss, having an episode of diarrhea does not mean that miscarriage is definitely about to happen. Many women get diarrhea while they’re pregnant and continue to have a healthy pregnancy. If you are pregnant and worried about your pregnancy for any reason, you should talk to your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnant women can get diarrhea just like everyone else. And, it isn’t necessarily a sign of pregnancy, miscarriage, or labor. It’s simply something that happens. As long as it’s just a passing case, there is usually no need to worry. It will most likely go away on its own. However, if the diarrhea is a sign of an infection, it may linger and need treatment. When diarrhea is severe or lasting longer than a day or two especially with other symptoms, you should call your doctor or go to the hospital. It’s always best to be safe, see what’s going on with your body, and check on the health of your pregnancy and your baby. 

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