Diarrhea During Pregnancy: What Causes It And Remedies

Diarrhea In Early Pregnancy

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Digestive disorders are common during pregnancy. One such condition is diarrhea that occurs frequently causing discomfort to you. It is a condition where the stool’s consistency is looser than normal. It usually occurs during the first trimester and is short-lived.

However, diarrhea can sometimes prove to be serious and even lethal. If you experience more than three watery stools a day, you need to rehydrate. Find out all about Diarrhea in early pregnancy and what you can do to ease the discomfort.

Causes Of Diarrhea In Early Pregnancy:

Diarrhea during early pregnancy can be caused either by pregnancy-related changes or general conditions.

Pregnancy-Related Causes For Diarrhea:

1. Hormones:

Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) will have an effect on the digestive system. They can cause morning sickness, food cravings, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Every pregnant woman experiences hormonal changes, but only a few suffer from diarrhea in their early stages.

2. Prenatal Vitamins:

Prenatal vitamins are good for you and your growing baby’s health. But, sometimes they may cause stomach-upset, leading to diarrhea. In such a case, you have to check with your doctor about the intake of vitamins.

3. Dietary Changes:

You may have to change your diet during pregnancy so that your baby receives the essential nutrients. Sometimes when you change the food, it can cause diarrhea or upset stomach. But do not worry since it is a temporary illness and will sub-side in some time.

4. Food Sensitivities:

Food sensitivities are one among the many changes that pregnancy causes to your body. Food that has not troubled you before pregnancy will now upset your stomach, resulting in diarrhea or bloating.

5. Lactose Intolerance:

It is another significant dietary change which causes diarrhea in pregnancy. Pregnant women increase their milk consumption and thus can suffer from lactose intolerance and consequent diarrhea. Research says that cutting milk for a few days can reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. However, the pregnant mother should take other calcium sources like cheese and yogurt.

[ Read: Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy ]

Other General Reasons For Diarrhea During Pregnancy:

Having diarrhea does not mean it is directly related to your pregnancy. Non-pregnancy related causes may also exist. The other causes of diarrhea in pregnancy include:

  • Bacteria, virus, intestinal parasites, stomach flu, medications and food poisoning.
  • Some conditions such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease, cause diarrhea frequently.

[ Read: Stomach Flu During Pregnancy ]

When To Seek A Doctor’s Help?

If you suffer from diarrhea for more than two days, you should immediately see your doctor. Also, watch out for the below symptoms that may occur along with diarrhea when pregnant.

  • Severe cramping or stomach pain
  • Mucus or blood in the stool
  • Severe headache
  • Severe vomiting
  • Fever above 100 degrees F
  • Reduced urine
  • Rapid heart beat

Treatment For Diarrhea During Pregnancy:

In addition to visiting a doctor, you can follow a few dietary changes to alleviate the problem.

1. Avoid Problem Causing Foods:

Some foods can worsen diarrhea. You should completely cut off spicy, fried, high-fat, and high-fiber foods, dairy and milk products. You should avoid the following foods:

  • Caffeinated and carbonated drinks
  • Fried fatty foods
  • Dried fruits
  • Spices
  • Dairy products
  • Sugary foods including candies and chocolates
  • Red meat

[ Read: Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy ]

2. Follow BRAT & CRAM Diet:

BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast) diet is recommended by doctors to sooth the digestive system. These foods may not provide all the nutrients, and thus, new research recommends to add the following as well.

  • Vegetables like cooked carrots
  • Starchy foods like unsweetened cereals, crackers and potatoes
  • Lean meats
  • Soups with rice, noodles or vegetables
  • Yogurt containing active live colonies of Lactobacillus acidophilus

Another effective alternative is following the CRAM diet, which includes cereal, rice, apple sauce and milk. These foods are comparatively better since they provide with better protein content.

3. Hydrate Yourself:

Ensure you consume a lot of water, juices and broths to replace the lost electrolytes. Water replenishes your lost fluids, juices replenish the potassium levels, and broth the sodium levels.

Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) is one of the most tried and tested methods of controlling diarrhea. This therapy involves giving water with good amounts of sugar and salt, as well as supplemental zinc for two weeks. It is extremely effective because water is still absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the body, even with loss of fluid through diarrhea or vomiting.

[ Read: 7 Healthy Drinks For Pregnant Women ]

4. Keep A Check On Medications:

Some medications can cause diarrhea, but with time, your body will adjust to them. But it may not be the same case all the time. You should check with your doctor so that he may prescribe you a different medication or treat diarrhea in any other way.

Also, you should not take any OTC anti-diarrheal medications without your doctor’s consultation. The condition may sometimes turn worse.

Home Remedies For Diarrhea During Pregnancy:

The following home remedies help you to avoid dehydration, and help in retaining water and electrolytes in your body.

  • Drink plenty of water, at least, one liter every two hours and have salty crackers as intermediate snacks.
  • Ginger tea is another best remedy. Boil some ginger and tea in water and allow it to stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and then consume.
  • Add three to four tablespoons of honey in a glass of water and consume the mixture every day.
  • Consume a mixture of lemon juice, crushed black pepper (1/4th tsp) and ginger powder (1/2 tsp) two times in a day.
  • Add peppermint extract to half a cup of water and consume it twice or thrice a day.
  • Psyllium husk is also another remedy as it reduces the frequency and severity of diarrhea.

[ Read: How Much Water To Drink During Pregnancy? ]

Prevention Of Diarrhea During Pregnancy:

There are a number of reasons you can have diarrhea during pregnancy. Avoid them and be free of the problem.

  • Avoid spicy or fatty foods as they are difficult to digest.
  • Cut down the milk intake if you are lactose intolerant and instead opt other calcium sources.
  • Avoid high sugar sodas and energy drinks as they can disturb your digestive system.
  • Do not consume coffee, tea, grape juices and any energy drinks.

Diarrhea During Late Pregnancy:

You are likely to experience diarrhea in late pregnancy that is during the third trimester. It could be a sign of labor and can also occur a couple of weeks before delivery. But it does not mean your baby is coming immediately. It is just that the body is preparing for the labor that begins at some later point.

Traveler’s Diarrhea During Pregnancy:

Traveler’s diarrhea is a common condition that occurs within a week of traveling. The higher risk prone areas for traveler’s diarrhea are in Africa, South America, Middle East and Asia. It could be due to the consumption of water or food that is contaminated with fecal deposits.

If you have to avoid traveler’s diarrhea during pregnancy:

  • Do not buy food from street vendors
  • Avoid tap water even for brushing your teeth
  • Do not go to localities where sanitation is poor
  • Avoid fruits which do not have to be peeled

Green Diarrhea During Pregnancy:

Diarrhea will not be a major concern during pregnancy, but when the stool color changes to green, you may get astonished. The chlorophyll rich food usually leads to green stools. As the consumption of greens increases during pregnancy through iron-rich vitamins, medicines, and supplements, it can be a reason for green diarrhea.

When you notice green color in your stool, do not panic. First, go through what you have had the previous day. Only when you realize that you have not taken food that can be a reason of green stools, approach your doctor.

Green stools do not indicate danger as a quick pass through to the intestine can also lead to green color in the stools.

Also, do not worry about black stool, which can be caused because of the intake iron supplements during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Diarrhea An Early Sign of Pregnancy?

Diarrhea is one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy, accompanied by vomiting and nausea, aversions and food cravings. It occurs as a result of increasing hormonal levels, especially estrogen, progesterone and HCG.

Is Diarrhea During Pregnancy Harmful For The Baby?

Diarrhea during pregnancy will not harm your baby. But if the condition is severe, it can cause dehydration in the mother thus hampering the blood flow to the fetus. Diarrhea that occurs due to any complications like uterine and abdominal infections during second or third trimesters can be dangerous to the fetus.

Can Diarrhea Occur In Second Trimester Of Pregnancy?

Diarrhea in the second trimester is less common. If diarrhea is followed by any other symptoms like fever or body aches, then you should check with your doctor. There are also higher chances of diarrhea if it is caused by food, drinks or an infection. In this case, you should immediately seek your doctor’s help.

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  • Suvina

    Hi..I’m 13 weeks pregnant and I had something similar symptoms mentioned here. I used to suffer stomach cramps and often feel quite nauseated too. I have had this on and off for weeks now. I must tell you, its very unpleasant to have this problem at the early stage…I’m getting really down with it now. I am a little worried as it is my first baby. Is it really normal to have diarrhea during pregnancy? Is there anything I can take or should I go to the doctor?

    • Reena

      Hi Suvina,

      If you are facing symptoms like nausea, abdominal cramps and bloated abdomen continuously, it is better that you go for immediate evaluation with your gynecologist. In the mean time, you keep yourself hydrated by drinking more water and take only bland tasting foods. Wishing you all the best through your pregnancy period!

  • Ankara

    Exhaustive and relevant content. Thank you, Aayesha for writing such a brilliant post. All the major causes, symptoms and treatments have been covered. Highly informative and in-depth detailing. Keep doing the good job. Looking forward to reading more such informative and well-researched posts.

  • Ancy

    I felt that dairy products were causing me severe gastrointestinal problems especially diarrhea. But when I found this article on internet, my doubt was clear. Now I will be on a safer side by not including diary products in my diet. This is indeed a good researched article that speaks everything about diarrhea and related problems during pregnancy.

  • AC

    Well written article! You covered most points any nursing mother would have questions about. The information is well researched and indeed quite helpful. You have covered most of the details and I am sure any fellow mother would appreciate the kind of value this post adds here. Thanks for writing this post.

  • smrithi priya

    Hi, I’m 15 weeks pregnant now, and this article really helped me out alot. I was facing the same symptoms like this and this article helped me out in dealing it. This article speaks about everything about diarrhea and related problems during pregnancy. Now I am able to enjoy my Babymoon period. Good job done!

  • Niharika

    Thanks Roopa….glad that you liked our article :-)