What To Do When You’re Suffering From Pregnancy Diarrhea

When an upset stomach just won't cooperate.

diarrhea in pregnancy

Before I became a mom, I was adamant I wasn’t going to be one of “those moms” who hoisted their baby up into the air and sniffed their backside to see if a nappy change was required.

Little did I know, baby poop would become an all-too-common part of daily conversation when my little one arrived!

But what about our own poop as mammas to be?

Diarrhea in pregnancy is no fun, but is it anything to worry about?

How do I know if I have diarrhea?

If you experience three or more loose bowel movements in one day, then it’s possible that you may be suffering from diarrhea.

What causes it?

Constipation in pregnancy is caused by fluctuating hormones. Diarrhea, on the other hand, is caused by something from outside the body.

There are many possible causes of diarrhea that have nothing to do with pregnancy.

Diarrhea can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • virus
  • bacteria
  • stomach flu
  • intestinal parasites
  • food poisoning
  • medications

You may also suffer from certain conditions which make diarrhea more likely: IBS, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease.

Why is it is more common during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, diarrhea can be more likely for multiple reasons.

  • Diet: When I found out I was pregnant, I upped my “healthy eating” regime (at least until the chocolate cravings arrived!) Changes to our diets can upset the stomach and possibly cause diarrhea.
  • Food sensitivities: If you’ve suffered from morning sickness, you’ll know that foods which you once loved may suddenly turn your stomach! Being more sensitive to different foods may cause you to suffer gas, an upset tummy or even diarrhea.
  • Prenatal vitamins: Taking prenatal vitamins is good for the health of both baby and mom-to-be. Unfortunately, they may upset your stomach and cause diarrhea.
  • Hormones: These things go into overdrive when we’re pregnant! On the one hand, they can cause the digestive system to slow down. This can equal constipation. On the other hand, they can also speed up the digestive system! This can equal diarrhea. Yuck!

The third trimester: the most common time for diarrhea to strike.

The third trimester is when diarrhea may become more common. This is because your body is preparing for labor.

But don’t panic! A sudden onset of diarrhea doesn’t necessarily mean baby is on his way just yet!

Is it normal?

Absolutely! It’s extremely common to experience diarrhea in pregnancy. It’s just another little lovely experience to go with the swollen ankles and morning sickness!

Will it harm my baby?

Don’t panic!

Diarrhea during pregnancy won’t harm your baby if it is short lived and treated properly. However, you should watch out for dehydration in pregnancy, which can be caused by severe diarrhea.

This can slow blood flow to the fetus so it’s important to keep hydrated.

The only time diarrhea may be a sign of danger for your baby is when it is accompanied by uterine and abdominal infections during second or third trimesters. See your doctor if you have any concerns about these.

What can I do to help?

Although pregnancy diarrhea is generally harmless, that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.

Here are a few ways to deal with it.

  • Bide your time: Usually, diarrhea will clear up in a few days, especially if it has been caused by food poisoning, a virus, or bacteria.
  • Keep hydrated: This is extremely important if you’re experiencing diarrhea as it causes you to lose a lot of fluid. Dehydration can be extremely serious during pregnancy, so make sure you get plenty of water.

Babycentre also recommends that you use oral rehydration solutions or an isotonic sports drinks to replace lost fluids, salts, sugars and minerals.

Find even more ways to stay hydrated during pregnancy here.

Home remedies

There is a long list of home remedies which are said to help with diarrhea in pregnancy. Here are just a few you could try.

  • Ginger tea: Boil some ginger and tea in water. Allow it to cool, strain and then consume.
  • Honey: Add three to four tablespoons to a glass of water. Consume daily.
  • Add peppermint extract to half a cup of water. Consume twice a day.

You are what you eat!

There are certain foods which you should avoid if you’re struggling with diarrhea.

The BRAT diet: For years, bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast have been recommended. This is because they’re gentle on the digestive system.

It’s also recommended to try adding these foods for additional vitamins and minerals:

  • Starchy foods like potatoes, cereals, and crackers
  • Vegetables
  • Non-milk-based soups with rice, noodles and vegetables
  • Lean meats
  • Yoghurt

Babycentre also recommends light meals which do not sit too heavy on your stomach.

Foods that you should avoid.

  • Spicy and fatty foods are best avoided as they’re difficult to digest. So perhaps that lamb curry will be off the menu for a while!
  • Sugary sodas and energy drinks can disrupt your digestive system so are best avoided.
  • Be wary of drinking too much milk if you are lactose intolerant. Choose other ways to get your calcium like those suggested here.
  • Stay away from too much coffee, tea, and energy drinks.

Is it safe to take medicine?

It can be tempting to run straight to your pharmacist (well, maybe not run, exactly!) if you’re suffering. Like any ailment with pregnancy, you need to be careful what medication you take.

Not all your usual over-the-counter medicines are safe for moms-to-be. In fact, some may make the issue worse!

In particular, Imodium, is not safe if you’re pregnant. There is more information about which medicines are safe here, but it’s always best to check with your midwife, doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure about whether medicines are safe to take.

When you should seek medical attention.

Diarrhea in pregnancy is common and will generally go away on its own if you eat the right foods and stay hydrated.

If the problem persists for more than a few days, or if it gets worse, you should call your doctor.

It’s very important to prevent dehydration. This can be a cause of premature labor, so must be taken really seriously.

Signs that you may be dehydrated include:

  • dark yellow urine
  • dry, sticky mouth
  • thirst
  • urinating less often
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling lightheaded

You should also get checked out straight away if:

  • You have more than three loose stools a day
  • Your stools contain blood or mucus
  • Your stools are purely liquid
  • You develop a high temperature

Your diarrhea is probably nothing to worry about but it’s always best to rule out anything serious. Better safe than sorry!

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