Diarrhea and Pregnancy: Causes & Remedies

Diarrhea is the condition of having at least three loose bowel movements each day. Usually, diarrhea lasts for a few days and can result in dehydration due to fluid loss. Read on to find out why diarrhea is so common during pregnancy and what you can do to ease the discomfort.

Unfortunately, constipation and diarrhea during pregnancy are quite common. There are many different causes for diarrhea, but the most common are hormonal changes, lactose intolerance, changes in diet and stress. The good news is that diarrhea usually doesn't last longer than 24 hours. However, if it lasts for a few days or if it is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, it is necessary to consult with your doctor.

Pregnant women deal with diarrhea quite a lot, and if they are not cautious, it can cause them many problems. If you experience more than three loose bowel movements in one day, you probably have diarrhea.

Diarrhea during pregnancy is common, but that doesn't mean that it's related to your pregnancy. Diarrhea can be caused by something that originates outside your body and may be the result of virus, bacteria, intestinal parasites, stomach flu, food poisoning, or some medications.

Diarrhea During Pregnancy

Some of the pregnancy-related causes for diarrhea include dietary changes, food sensitivities, and hormonal changes. Lots of women make dramatic changes in their diet the moment they find out they are pregnant and this sudden change can upset their stomach and cause diarrhea.

Prenatal vitamins and hormone changes can also upset your stomach and cause runny, loose stools. However, hormone-related diarrhea is more common in late pregnancy. Diarrhea before labor is also common, but that doesn't mean that your labor is a few days away, so you don't need to be alarmed by excessive diarrhea. Some women will experience frequent diarrhea right before labor or a couple of weeks before it, while others will not even experience diarrhea in their third trimester. Each woman's experience is different.

Is Diarrhea an Early Sign of Pregnancy?

Diarrhea is among the most common discomforts that may be experienced during pregnancy. But, is diarrhea a sign of pregnancy?

Diarrhea is defined as a loose or watery stool and due to the hormonal changes during early pregnancy, it is quite common to have diarrhea in the first three months of pregnancy. However, diarrhea during early pregnancy is not usually serious, unless it is accompanied by pain in the abdomen, fever or blood in stools. These unpleasant diarrheal episodes are short-lived, but they can cause dehydration if accompanied by vomiting.

Causes of Diarrhea in Pregnancy

Many people believe that there is no connection between diarrhea and pregnancy while others see it as a result of the hormonal changes that are taking place in the body. As we said before, the dramatic increases in estrogen, progesterone, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) and other hormones can affect the digestive system in the first trimester. Thus, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and morning sickness may be some of the very first symptoms of pregnancy. Diarrhea is not harmful to the mother or the baby and can be caused by a number of other conditions that may require attention. Here are some of the most common causes of diarrhea:

Hormonal Changes

Pregnancy hormones can have numerous effects on the digestive system and can cause constipation, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. The hormonal changes during pregnancy can slow down the digestive system but according to experts, this is beneficial for the baby because it enables the body to absorb key nutrients that are essential for normal growth and development.

Dietary Changes

Many women will change their diet as soon as they find out they are pregnant. These sudden changes usually include an addition of plenty of vegetables, fruits and fiber in the diet. But, if the body of the mother is not used to so much fiber, the new diet can cause temporary diarrhea during the first trimester.

Prenatal Vitamins

There are some prenatal vitamins that can cause diarrhea too because they contain high levels of iron. If you suspect that the multivitamins you are taking are causing your diarrhea, try skipping them for a few days and see if there are any changes.

Lactose Intolerance

Women increase their consumption of milk during pregnancy, so they can experience lactose intolerance and have bad diarrhea. Calcium is an essential nutrient needed in the body and your developing baby needs a considerable amount of calcium. Lactose intolerance can cause cramps, gas and diarrhea. If you are lactose intolerant, you can still receive the calcium you need from other sources such as cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, broccoli, tofu and greens.

Viruses

Stomach viruses are another cause of diarrhea during pregnancy. This is probably because pregnancy makes women more susceptible to stomach flu which causes diarrhea and dehydration, and can be dangerous if not treated quickly.

How to Treat Diarrhea during Pregnancy

Diarrhea in pregnancy

Pregnancy and diarrhea are closely related but diarrhea is a normal physiological response of the body and is not dangerous for the mother or the baby. Most cases of diarrhea clear up on their own in a few days.

However, there are some things you can do to get rid of this problem fast.

Remedies for Diarrhea During Pregnancy

Stay Hydrated

If you're experiencing diarrhea while pregnant, it's important to stay hydrated. Loose stools will remove a lot of fluid from your bod and lead to dehydration. Dehydration can be serious, so make sure you are re-hydrating yourself. Even though diarrhea is rarely life-threatening, it shouldn't be taken too lightly while pregnant. Drink plenty of water daily to replace the fluids you're losing. You can also drink plenty of fruit juice and clear broth soup to help replace some of the vitamins and minerals your body has lost.

Avoid Certain Foods

Stay away from problematic foods that can worsen your diarrhea. High-fat, spicy, fried, high-fiber foods, dairy products, high-sugar drinks, and dried fruits can only make diarrhea worse. If you're experiencing constant diarrhea, you should eat bananas, rice, toast, potatoes, unsweetened cereals, crackers, cooked carrots, vegetables, and yogurt. These foods will help alleviate diarrhea. Also, make sure to stay away from diarrhea medications containing sodium bicarbonate. Maintain a balanced diet and do not feel stressed by the situation, because it's temporary and will go away before you know it.

Consider Your Medications

Some medications can also cause diarrhea. If you think that the medications you're taking are the causes for the diarrhea, talk to your doctor and switch to a different medication.

Get a Prescription

If you're experiencing diarrhea for 2 days or more, make an appointment to see your doctor right away. Your body can become dehydrated and dehydration is a risk factor for premature labor. Your doctor will probably conduct a physical exam to determine what is causing diarrhea and will give you a prescription. Mild cases of diarrhea aren't anything to worry about, but bloody or black diarrhea, or diarrhea for a week are a sign to give your doctor a call immediately.

Important Facts About Diarrhea in Pregnancy

Diarrhea in pregnancy is quite common but if you want to prevent it, you have to avoid spicy, fatty food, and milk products. These foods can be difficult for the body to digest and can cause diarrhea. Increased milk intake can also cause diarrhea in lactose intolerant women. High sugar content drinks should be avoided during pregnancy, as they can disturb digestion. Expectant mothers should drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Stay away from coffee, tea, cokes, grape juices, and energy drinks.

When to Call the Doctor?

If you suspect that your diarrhea is due to causes other than pregnancy, talk to your health care provider. Your doctor will determine the exact cause of diarrhea. If your diarrhea does not resolve on its own within a few days, the cause could be bacteria or virus, so you may need antibiotics. Call your doctor immediately if you have dark diarrhea accompanied by cramping, fever, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.