Gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is an infection of the intestinal lining, and is a common problem for women during pregnancy. As pregnancy weakens the immune system, women are more susceptible to viral infections and other diseases during this phase. Momjunction tells you the effects of stomach flu during pregnancy and the ways to deal with them.
Causes Of Stomach Flu During Pregnancy:
Stomach bugs are most often caused by a variety of viruses which attack the gastrointestinal system. The viruses are contracted from food that is made under unhygienic conditions or not cooked properly.
How Can You Identify Stomach Flu?
Stomach flu is hard to identify during pregnancy, particularly during the early stages when most women suffer from morning sickness. However, if vomiting and nausea are accompanied by a lack of appetite, cramps, fever or diarrhea, you may be suffering from stomach flu. Moreover, stomach flu will last only for a few days, while morning sickness remains until the second trimester.
Also, there could be confusion between food poisoning and stomach bug as the symptoms are similar. In this case, a trip to the doctor will help determine the problem.
Symptoms Of A Stomach Flu:
In order to make sure that it is not morning sickness but stomach flu, you should look for a few more signs that show up in the first two days.
The possible symptoms to watch for include:
- Severe diarrhea or loose, watery stools
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Sudden low-grade fever
- Muscle aches
These symptoms seem mild initially, but if they do not subside even after two days, you should check with a healthcare provider. It helps to treat the condition effectively.
How To Deal With Stomach Bug During Pregnancy?
If you are just beginning to feel the early symptoms, you can easily handle them with a little care and effort. Here are some of the remedial ways:
1. Drink enough fluids:
Fluids are very important when you are suffering from stomach flu. Your body loses fluids through sweat, vomiting, and diarrhea. You are at a risk of dehydration, especially if you are suffering from frequent urination or passing dark-colored urine. The lack of fluids causes reduction in the volume of blood, which then compromises oxygen and nutrition supply to the growing fetus.
Symptoms like constant thirst, dry mouth, dark colored urine, urine inconsistency, lack of urine, fatigue or dizziness indicate dehydration.
What to drink: Drink plenty of water, clear broth, warm water with lemon (relieves gas), decaffeinated tea or diluted juice (white grape juice is easy on tummy). Grape water, vegetable broth, creamy soups, ginger ale, curd, yogurt, buttermilk and coconut water are good options. You can also prefer popsicles or ice chips if you cannot sip through liquids. You can add a dash of ginger to your juices or snacks as it helps in combating infection.
What not to drink: Caffeinated drinks such as strong black tea, coffee, and chocolate should be avoided. Stay away from alcohol as it is a diuretic and can aggravate your stomach flu. Stay away from outside food and junk food.
Sickness and diarrhea from stomach bugs can make you feel tired and weak as your body is working to nurture your baby. Therefore, it is very important to get as much rest as possible. Rest until you feel you have recovered completely.
3. Eat proper food:
As the symptoms of stomach bug begin to clear, you can gradually introduce bland and semi-solid foods. They are easier to digest. Solid foods are difficult for you to digest. Do not force yourself to eat more as it can cause nausea.
The BRAT diet is the best option to ease the stomach issue. It consists of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast which contain a considerable amount of carbohydrates. They provide energy and replenish your body with the nutrients lost through diarrhea and vomiting.
Bananas: Ripe ones support digestion and replace the lost potassium.
Rice: White rice is easy to digest and gives energy. Do not take brown rice as it contains high fiber, which could be hard on the stomach.
Applesauce: Offers an energy boost through carbs and sugars present in it. It also contains pectin which eases diarrhea.
Toast: White bread is a good option and easy to digest. Whole wheat bread contains excess fiber which is again not good for digestive system.
What not to eat: Dairy, fibrous, spicy or fatty foods should be avoided.
Dairy: Everyone may not have a problem with milk or dairy products, but they are not easily digestible.
Fiber: Too much fiber can cause flatulence, bloating, loose stools and diarrhea.
Fatty foods: Do not include oily and salty foods. Also cut down spicy curries, chili sauces and tomato containing dishes.
Ginger is a natural digestion aid and an effective remedy for nausea. It will help relieve the symptoms of nausea. You can take ginger chews available at health food stores, or prefer homemade ginger tea. Here is how you can make brewed ginger tea:
You will need:
- Freshly grated ginger – 1 1/2 teaspoon
- Boiling water – 1 1/2 cup
How to make:
- Take a cup and put the grated ginger.
- Now fill it with one–and-a-half cup of boiling water.
- Let it remain for about ten minutes and then strain it.
If it tastes strong, you can add more boiling water to dilute the tea. Do not add any sweetener or sugar.
Peppermint also helps combat upset stomach, and it eases IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. You can prepare peppermint tea in the same way as ginger tea.
Gastroenteritis kills good bacteria present in the digestive tract. Almost 75% of the immune system is present in the stomach, and therefore it is essential to replenish the system. You should take probiotics like yogurt and kefir, which contain the good bacteria. They help in boosting the immune system to combat diseases. You may continue to take them during the illness and also for at least two weeks later.
7. Electrolyte drinks:
Ideally, your body system maintains a balance and contains ionic solutions known as electrolytes. They regulate the functioning of your body, nerves and muscles. When you are suffering from stomach flu, you lose many of these ionic solutions through diarrhea and vomiting. To regain the energy, stamina, and strength, you should replenish your body with the lost electrolytes. Here is one homemade electrolyte drink recipe that will help restore your energy.
You will need:
- Fresh orange juice – ½ cup
- Fresh lemon juice
- Filtered water – 2 cups
- Raw honey – 2 – 4 tbsp, for taste
- Unrefined salt – 1/8 tsp, for taste
How to make:
Mix all the above ingredients and blend them until smooth.
Water Vs Electrolyte Replacement Drinks – Which One Is Better?
This depends on how severe your symptoms are. The more severe your symptoms are, the higher is the loss of electrolytes. However, it is always advisable to seek your healthcare provider’s advice.
If you are having severe diarrhea and vomiting, you should wait at least for one to two hours before taking any liquids, even water, and electrolytes. Else, your tummy will reject them automatically. Your tummy needs to heal by itself, and the spasms must end before you introduce any liquids.
When Should You Call The Doctor?
Stomach flu usually subsides in two days. But you should check with your healthcare provider if:
- You are ill for more than 48 hours.
- Your temperature is about 101 degrees F or above.
- You experience severe dehydration along with having a dry mouth and passing dark urine.
- Lack of appetite and extreme fatigue.
- You are not able to keep food down for a considerable time.
Can You Take Medication?
Pregnant women are restricted from taking medication it could harm the baby. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against using any medications for viral gastroenteritis. Some natural remedies (like ginger, mint discussed above) that could treat morning sickness during pregnancy can also help with nausea and vomiting related to stomach bugs.
The following drugs are usually prescribed by your doctor during pregnancy for stomach infection:
- Antacids (Eno, Tums, Maalox)
- Gas relievers (Mylicon)
- Acetaminophen or Tylenol (1) (treats headaches and muscle spasms until the virus subsides)
Antidiarrheal medicines are strictly prescribed by doctors.
Note: All the medications, along with antacids, are to be consumed only after consulting your doctor. Refrain from taking an individual call and popping pills from over the counter.
How To Prevent Stomach Flu While You Are Pregnant?
The following tips will help you prevent stomach bug during pregnancy:
- Wash your hands properly after using the washroom or toilet. Make sure the toilet seat and the area are cleaned every day. Consider cleaning the flush, taps, basin, door handle and other surfaces with detergent and hot water.
- Wash your hands after gardening or touching your pets.
- You should not cook any food when you are ill. But there is no option, wash your hands thoroughly before cooking.
- You should keep a separate towel and flannel for cleaning and drying your hands.
- Keep away from those suffering from stomach flu. It is just a precaution but not something to be overly concerned about.
- Follow food safety rules as it is very important during pregnancy.
- Do not consume cold food that has been refrigerated for more than a couple of hours.
- Have a healthy diet, consume plenty of water, and do frequent and moderate exercises.
Can Stomach Infections Hurt Your Baby?
Stomach bug is not a virus that would spread to your baby. As long as you are healthy, your body will possess many natural defenses that can protect your baby from any harm. Even the vomiting and diarrhea you are suffering from will not cause any harm to your baby.
Hope this article helped you with the effects, remedies and preventive measures. Consult your healthcare provider for the right diet and medication for stomach bug. If you have got any remedies for stomach flu, do not forget to share them with us in the comment section below.
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