Digestive difficulties like constipation and diarrhea are common during pregnancy. It’s usually related to hormones, changes in diet, or added stress.
Although most digestive issues like diarrhea usually aren’t serious, they can cause pregnancy complications if you have severe or ongoing symptoms. That’s why it’s best to get treatment if your digestive issues don’t clear up in a couple of days or continue to get worse.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what can cause diarrhea during pregnancy and what you can do to help alleviate your symptoms.
If you experience three or more loose bowel movements in a single day, you may have diarrhea.
Diarrhea during pregnancy is common. But just because you have diarrhea doesn’t necessarily mean it’s directly related to your pregnancy.
Reasons for diarrhea, other than pregnancy, include:
- viral infections, like rotavirus, norovirus, or viral gastroenteritis
- bacterial infections, like Salmonella or E. coli
- intestinal parasites
- food poisoning
- medication side effects
- food intolerance
Certain conditions may also make diarrhea more common. These conditions include:
Pregnancy-related causes for diarrhea may include:
- Dietary changes. Many people make changes to their diet when they find out they’re pregnant. Dietary changes can upset your stomach and potentially cause diarrhea.
- New food sensitivities. Food sensitivities may be one of the many changes you experience during pregnancy. Foods that you tolerated well before becoming pregnant may now cause you to have gas, an upset stomach, or diarrhea.
- Prenatal vitamins. Taking prenatal vitamins is good for your health as well as the health of your growing baby. But these vitamins may upset your stomach and cause diarrhea.
- Hormone changes. Shifting hormones may cause your digestive system to slow down, which can lead to constipation. Hormonal changes can also speed up the digestive system, resulting in diarrhea.
If you’re leery of medications while you’re pregnant, there’s some good news. You may not need to take any additional medications to treat your diarrhea. In fact, most cases of diarrhea clear up without treatment.
But if you want to try some home remedies, there are some steps you can take.
- Stay well hydrated. Watery, loose bowel movements remove a lot of fluid from your body. Dehydration can happen quickly and cause serious complications, especially if you’re pregnant. It’s best to drink water to replace the fluids you’ve lost with diarrhea. You may want to drink juice and broth to replace some of the electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals your body has lost. But try to be mindful of not drinking beverages that have high sugar content. Read the nutrition labels carefully in an effort to limit your sugar intake.
- Eat bland foods. Try to stick to eating bland foods. The BRAT diet is
often recommendedfor stomach issues, including diarrhea. The BRAT diet is comprised of:
- Certain food groups can make diarrhea worse. Try to steer clear of foods that are fatty, fried, or spicy. Also try to limit your intake of milk and dairy.
- Consider your medication. If a medication you’re taking is causing the diarrhea, your body may be able to adjust to it, and the diarrhea may stop. If not, talk with your doctor about possibly changing your medication. Do not stop taking a medication that your doctor has prescribed without first talking with your doctor.
- Add probiotics to your diet. Probiotics are tiny microorganisms and a type of good bacteria that work in your gastrointestinal tract to create a healthy gut environment. Probiotics may be
particularly helpfulwhen diarrhea is caused by antibiotic medication.
- Give it time. Most cases of diarrhea will clear up in a few days. This is often the case if your diarrhea is the result of food poisoning, a bug or virus, or bacteria.
- See a doctor. Make an appointment to see your doctor if your diarrhea doesn’t get better after 2 or 3 days. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and may draw blood to determine what’s causing your diarrhea.
Do not take over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication without consulting your doctor. Certain conditions may be worsened by these medicines. They’re also not safe for everyone.
Prolonged diarrhea can cause dehydration. If your diarrhea lasts more than 2 or 3 days, call your doctor. Severe dehydration can cause pregnancy complications. Symptoms of dehydration include:
According to the Institute of Medicine, you can prevent dehydration during pregnancy by drinking about 80 ounces, or 10 cups, of water every day.
Digestive issues, including diarrhea, can be common during pregnancy. This may be due to shifting hormones, dietary changes, new medications, prenatal vitamins, and stress.
Most cases of diarrhea clear up without the need for treatment or medications. Drinking plenty of fluids, eating bland food, and adding probiotics to your diet may help settle your stomach and prevent dehydration.
If your diarrhea lasts more than 2 to 3 days, or if it’s severe, reach out to your doctor. Ongoing or severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration which may cause pregnancy complications.