Digestive disorders are common during pregnancy. In addition to constipation, an upset stomach or loose stools is another problem you might have to deal with when you are pregnant. Diarrhea is when you have three or more loose bowel movements in a day, and can be dangerous if you do not take proper care.
Read this MomJunction post for more information about what causes diarrhea during pregnancy and how to deal with it.
Is Diarrhea During Pregnancy Common?
Diarrhea is more common during pregnancy because of decreased immunity during pregnancy. However, not everyone experiences this problem during pregnancy. Also, diarrhea in the third trimester does not rightly mean your baby is coming out.
What Are The Causes Of Diarrhea During Pregnancy?
The common causes of pregnancy-related diarrhea include:
- Dietary changes: Sudden dietary changes during pregnancy and drastic changes in meal patterns, to support the baby with essential nutrients and vitamins for growth, can cause diarrhea. This happens because the body doesn’t get enough time to adapt to the changes. The condition is temporary and subsides over time.
- Hormonal imbalances: Fluctuations in hormonal levels affect your digestion mechanism. It makes the digestive system either slow causing constipation or extremely active causing diarrhea. Also, a surge of hormonal levels before delivery could upset the gastrointestinal system (2).
- Food sensitivity: Foods that never triggered any stomach irritation or illness earlier (when non-pregnant) might now make you uncomfortable. You may experience diarrhea, gas, bloating or upset stomach upon eating certain foods (3). You may also be insensitive to any new foods you try, dairy, and candies among others.
- Prenatal vitamins: They are good for you and your growing baby’s health and wellness. But in some cases, vitamins might interfere with the gastrointestinal system, leading to upset stomach and diarrhea. For instance, an excess of vitamin C causes diarrhea and nausea and iron supplements also interfere with the digestive system(4).
- Intolerance to lactose: Yet another cause of diarrhea is increased dairy consumption during pregnancy. Most people cannot tolerate excess intake of milk, cheese and other products containing lactose (5).
Diarrhea may be a result of other factors such as:
- Bacterial and viral infections
- Stomach flu
- Botulism or food poisoning
- Intestinal parasites
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis (6)
These conditions are not related to pregnancy in any way. A little indigestion and discomfort in the abdomen may be normal, but if it is severe diarrhea, you must go to a doctor.
When To See A Doctor?
Prolonged diarrhea will lead to dehydration. You should see a doctor if you experience diarrhea for two to three days continuously and experience the following symptoms (7):
- Dark and yellow urine
- Increased thirst
- Decreased urine output
- Fever and headache
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Dry and sticky mouth
- Discharge of blood (spotting) and mucus
Also, contact your doctor if you experience constant diarrhea associated with usual preterm labor symptoms mentioned next.
- Baby moving less frequently
- Frequent contractions
- Excess vaginal discharge that is bloody, mucus-like or watery
- Severe cramps
- Pain or pressure in the lower belly
Although your diarrhea is nothing much to worry about, it is always good to rule out anything serious by seeking immediate medical attention.
Managing Diarrhea During Pregnancy
In most cases, diarrhea will clear on its own in a couple of days, without the need for any medications. However, following a few tips will give you relief from the condition.
- Give it time: If you are having three to more loose stools in a day, do not be worried. The condition will usually resolve in a day or two. If not, you might need a physical examination or a blood test to determine the cause.
- Consider medications: If you are experiencing diarrhea because of the prenatal or antenatal medications, check with your doctor to change the medication.
- Avoid problem-causing foods: Avoid foods might that are deep-fried, or have high amounts of fat, spices, dairy or fiber, as they make diarrhea worse. Also, refrain from eating at unhygienic places.
- Do not self-medicate: Avoid taking anti-diarrhea medicines on your own. They might worsen your condition or have severe side effects.
- Remain hydrated: Diarrhea removes all the fluid and water content from your body, which can disrupt the electrolytic balance. Intake of water and juices will help you fight dehydration, and replaces the lost body fluids and electrolytes.
- Probiotics: Your doctor may prescribe some probiotics to help you control diarrhea. In most cases, this resolves the problem without further medication.
Certain changes to your diet can also help you manage an upset stomach better.
Dietary Changes To Treat Diarrhea During Pregnancy
Foods play an important role in managing gastrointestinal conditions including diarrhea. Doctors usually recommend the BRAT diet which involves consuming only bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, all of which are gentle on the digestive system, to control diarrhea (8).
The other foods you may consider for vitamins and minerals include:
- Starchy foods including cereals, potatoes, and crackers
- Lean meats
- Soups of rice, vegetables, chicken, and noodles
- Fresh yogurt
Also, avoid foods that might be harmful to the digestive system. Keep away
- Carbonated and sugary drinks
- Spicy and fatty foods
- Dried fruits
- Red meat
- Milk, if you are lactose intolerant
- Chocolates and candies
At the same time, you can try a few natural remedies to relieve yourself from the symptoms.
Home Remedies For Diarrhea During Pregnancy
Some effective remedies you can try to manage diarrhea are mentioned next.
- Lemon water: Lemon water with a pinch of salt makes an effective drink to relieve diarrhea and nausea.
- Ginger: Lukewarm ginger tea is also effective in treating diarrhea, and it also improves health and metabolism.
- Peppermint extract: Add peppermint extract to half a cup of water and consume. It eases symptoms of diarrhea.
- Macerations: Having lukewarm water with honey, or lemon juice with ginger powder and black pepper powder also helps ease diarrhea.
- Psyllium husk: Use as directed as it can decrease the severity and frequency of loose motions during diarrhea.
Is Diarrhea during Pregnancy Harmful To The Baby?
Diarrhea during pregnancy is not likely to cause any harm to the growing baby if treated on time. But, if diarrhea is severe, it can lead to dehydration during pregnancy and slow down the circulation of blood in the fetus.
Diarrhea could be harmful to the baby if it is associated with abdominal or uterine infections in the second and third trimesters.
Is It Normal To Experience Green Diarrhea During Pregnancy?
Yes, it is normal during pregnancy to experience green diarrhea, where the stool color changes to green. This happens due to increased consumption of green foods, iron-rich food, medicines, and dietary supplements.
Sometimes, green diarrhea could be due to serious complications including intestinal infections, salmonella or giardia poisoning. Therefore, it is best to consult your doctor as soon as you notice green stools.
What Is Traveler’s Diarrhea?
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 is usually due to the consumption of water or food that is contaminated with fecal deposits.
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 that do not have to be peeled (9)
Next, we will address a few commonly asked queries about diarrhea and pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is diarrhea a normal symptom of early pregnancy?
It is possible that you could have diarrhea in early pregnancy. The increased levels of pregnancy hormones including progesterone, estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin will show an effect on the digestive system causing diarrhea along with morning sickness and food cravings. However, it is not a reliable symptom of early pregnancy.
2. Is diarrhea during early pregnancy is a sign of miscarriage?
Diarrhea is one of the symptoms of miscarriage, but will not lead to it. Do not worry about pushing your baby out while you strain for a bowel movement.
3. How is diarrhea a sign of pregnancy implantation?
Diarrhea is not a direct sign of implantation, but rather a sign of hormonal changes in the body due to the implantation of the fertilized egg.
Diarrhea is not a condition to worry about if you take the right steps to rule out anything serious. Try managing the symptoms with home remedies, or seek medical advice if it is too bothersome. Avoid using over-the-counter medications without consulting the doctor first.
How have you managed diarrhea during pregnancy? Write to us about it in the below comment section.
2. Penny Simkin et al,; Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide; page 113
3. Food Sensitivity; Rush University Medical Center
4. L. Bellows et al.; Dietary Supplements: Vitamins and Minerals; Colorado State University (2018)
5. Noelle M. Yeo; Lactose Intolerance: An Overview of the Facts and Their Implications; University of Nebraska – Lincoln (2017)
6. Diarrhea; Medical University of South Carolina
7. Janet Walley, Penny Simkin, Ann Keppler, Janelle Durham, April Bolding; Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide
8. Treatment Of Nausea, Vomiting And/Or Diarrhea The “BRAT Diet”; Central Connecticut State University (2018)
9. Pregnant Travelers; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1600 Clifton Road (2017)