Diarrhea in Pregnancy – Is It Normal? Does it harm the baby?

Diarrhea in pregnancy is defined as a change in the number of stools (more than normal) and/or a change in stool characteristics: stools become soft or watery, and is usually accompanied by an increased urge to go. to the bathroom.

While not as common as constipation , diarrhea is one of the ailments that pregnant women often experience. These episodes can usually be occasional and are usually not serious, although it is important to take into account some factors to prevent them and act accordingly if they occur.

During the first few months, they may even be one of the most frequent symptoms that a woman is experiencing, although as it progresses it may occur due to sensitivity in the digestive system or because we may be undergoing treatment against constipation .

Is it normal to have diarrhea during pregnancy?

Many women experience diarrhea at some point in their pregnancy and some may even experience it shortly before delivery. Mild diarrhea in pregnancy is often short-lived and unlikely to harm your baby.

If you think you have severe diarrhea and are having more than three bowel movements a day, visit your doctor for expert advice.

Common causes of diarrhea in pregnancy:

According to some experts, the hormonal changes experienced by the mother’s body to prepare for pregnancy and motherhood are the main causes of diarrhea in pregnancy , although they can also be motivated by other factors and symptoms of pregnancy.

1. Hormones:

Pregnancy hormones can affect the gastrointestinal system, causing bloating, nausea , vomiting, constipation , a sluggish digestive system, and diarrhea. Although upset, this diarrhea is not a health concern for the mother or baby.

2. Nausea or feeling of heaviness in the stomach:

Nausea , digestion problems or vomiting cause food not to be well digested in the stomach, diarrhea in pregnancy  is a consequence of poor digestion of food.

3. Dietary changes:

Sometimes women change their diet to a healthier one or choose to consume foods with a high amount of fiber to avoid the typical constipation of pregnancy. However, higher intake of fruits and vegetables can cause diarrhea in pregnancy . It is a temporary reaction of the body, which will disappear after a few days.

4. Lactose Intolerance:

As many women increase their milk intake, they may develop an episode of lactose intolerance , which in turn manifests as diarrhea. If you suspect this could be the reason for your diarrhea in pregnancy , you can try to stop drinking milk (but continue to eat foods rich in calcium) to see if your stools return to normal.

5. Vitamins or prenatal medications:

Taking prenatal vitamins or certain medications during pregnancy can cause changes in bowel movements. In the case of multivitamins, these contain some principles that can be the cause of diarrhea in pregnancy , but also iron , which causes constipation .

6. Viruses, bacteria and diseases:

Stomach virus or food poisoning is one of the main causes of diarrhea in pregnant women, who may be more vulnerable to this type of attack. Additionally, women who have problems such as an inflamed bowel, irritable bowel syndrome , or diverticulitis may experience occasional or chronic diarrhea during pregnancy.

Diarrhea during the third trimester of pregnancy:

1. First quarter:

In the first few months, hormonal changes experienced by pregnant women such as nausea , vomiting and indigestion, can cause diarrhea during pregnancy.

2. Third quarter:

Diarrhea during the third trimester is not all that uncommon and is more likely to occur as your due date approaches. It could be a sign that labor is near and it could happen just before birth or a few weeks before delivery. If it’s a couple of weeks before your due date, you shouldn’t expect a premature birth.

If you have diarrhea during your third trimester, it doesn’t mean your baby is coming at this time, so you shouldn’t be alarmed. This is just one way that some women’s bodies begin to prepare for the work that will begin at some point. You may want to be aware of other signs of labor as well.

3. Final stage of pregnancy:

Other cases of diarrhea in pregnancy usually occur in the later stages of pregnancy, as it is very common for the mother to be nervous or have moments of anxiety due to childbirth, or having eaten too much and suffering from an infection, although less likely.

Beware of dehydration:

The most serious problem that diarrhea in pregnancy  can cause is dehydration, as it directly affects the baby: when it occurs, the blood does not reach the placenta efficiently and can cause a premature birth. This is why it is so important that in case a pregnant woman has severe diarrhea, she goes to the doctor, as she may need to be given an IV drip.

How to prevent diarrhea in pregnancy:

During the period of pregnancy we must take care of the diet in a special way: maintain a balanced diet and, on the other hand, take care of a series of basic rules. Thus, we must carefully wash the fruits and vegetables that we are going to eat, avoid binge eating at once and, if we eat out, be concerned about the fact that it is a place where hygiene is taken care of. When traveling, we should only consume bottled water and it is not advisable to risk too much for condiments that we are not used to.

On the other hand, we have to monitor the medicines we consume. If we are receiving treatment, we should always consult the possibility of side effects. As we have already mentioned, constipation  is a common problem among pregnant women; Abusing laxatives can have the opposite effect and cause diarrhea, which, in severe cases, is more dangerous than what we are trying to avoid.

How to deal with diarrhea in pregnancy?

Vomiting and diarrhea do not affect the baby, but if diarrhea is not treated properly, it can pose a risk to the fetus. So it is good to follow some guidelines to treat it.

1. Drink more fluids:

The best remedy to treat diarrhea during pregnancy is to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. And is that when suffering diarrhea the body loses a lot of fluid throughout the day, with which electrolytes are also lost, which must be replaced. This can cause dehydration that would affect the baby, so it’s important to hydrate properly.

Proper hydration involves drinking plenty of water, but it is also good to consume juice and broth to rehydrate the body and replace the electrolytes that the body has lost. Water helps to replace lost fluids, juice helps to restore potassium levels and broth helps to replace sodium.

2. Follow a bland diet:

On the food level, it is advisable to eat solids in small portions, having several meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. It is important to consume foods that rehydrate the body, such as soups and broths. You should also eat foods rich in potassium , like bananas or potatoes .

Another important section is the changes we should make in our meals: the white diet is the best option when it comes to overcoming diarrhea. There are a number of foods that will make the problem worse and we should avoid them. Among them we have all kinds of nuts, milk, sugary drinks, fatty foods and spicy foods, as well as all those that have fiber .

On the other hand, there are a number of foods that will improve the situation of the intestines. Among the most recommended foods to start eating are rice and toast. Bananas  and applesauce are also very beneficial, and the second meal helps us to hydrate. It is also important to maintain a diet rich in zinc and vitamins and to take starch (we can find it in potatoes , unsweetened cereals and cookies).

In a second phase, we can introduce more variety. The most recommended meats are lean and, if you want to opt for fish, the best is white and grilled. Yogurt , Boiled Carrots and Soup will also help us. As for drinks, as we’ve already mentioned, water and fluids designed for athletes are more recommendable than grape juice and apple drinks , which some people mistakenly believe help hydrate in cases of diarrhea.

3. Self-medication totally prohibited:

If the diarrhea does not go away on its own in a few days, it is advisable to see a doctor. It is important to remember that you should never take a medication without first consulting your doctor. In fact, you should know that diarrhea can be caused by bacteria and parasites, which can be treated with antibiotics. But it can also be caused by a virus, so antibiotics won’t help. To determine the cause, you must go to the health center.

When to seek treatment for diarrhea in pregnancy:

Prolonged diarrhea can cause dehydration. If your diarrhea lasts longer than two or three days, contact your doctor. Severe dehydration causes pregnancy complications. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  1. dark yellow urine;
  2. Dry and sticky mouth;
  3. Site;
  4. Decreased urine output;
  5. Headache;
  6. Dizziness.

You can prevent dehydration during pregnancy diarrhea by drinking at least 2L of water every day.

When should I seek help for diarrhea in pregnancy?

If you notice anything unusual about your pregnancy diarrhea , such as passing blood, green mucus, or black stools, contact your doctor or midwife right away. If you haven’t noticed anything unusual, but suspect your diarrhea isn’t due to positive lifestyle changes or hormones and is a result of something more serious, speak with your doctor again.

Useful links: 

Women who are sick for more than 48 hours, who become severely dehydrated and/or develop a high temperature should seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

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