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Pregnancy is a period of great physical strain on the body, which is why most women become hyper-aware of it during pregnancy – you’re always on the lookout for signs and symptoms of anything that seems unusual. One of these symptoms is black stools during pregnancy. This, however, can be a misleading fear since black stools alone are not dangerous. Other symptoms accompanying the stools could indicate an illness, infection or internal bleeding. The stools alone are not an illness but an indicator or a symptom. The symptoms to watch out for when you have black stools are:
To better understand why this occurs and the risks associated with black stools during pregnancy, it is essential to understand the causes of black stools.
Causes of Black Stools During Pregnancy
There can be numerous reasons why your body passes a motion in black colour during pregnancy. Some of them are:
Certain types of medication can cause dark stools during your pregnancy. This is usually the first thing doctors check when examining your condition. Some variations of antacids, pantoprazole, domperidone and paracetamol are known to cause black stools. Over-the-counter medication is easy to access and can be harmful if taken without a prescription. It is important to remember that self-medication can be dangerous during pregnancy. Inform your doctor about the medicines you consume so that medication-related problems with your stools can be ruled out.
It is commonly believed that dark coloured foods cause dark stools. Watch out for black or blue foods and talk to your doctor about managing your diet to balance out your nutritional intake. It is also recommended that you stay away from any food prepared with artificial food colouring during this period.
3. Iron Supplements
Iron supplements can sometimes cause black stools. This occurs when you over-consume iron supplements or if your body’s iron levels are too low. Low iron levels can cause anaemia, which means there is a lack of red blood cells in the body. A key point to remember is that iron is not easy to break down or digest. Taking iron supplements increases your blood count, but over-consuming it may cause your stool to be dark with a tarry texture. Consuming iron-rich food like spinach and other leafy greens vegetables, red meat, and liver meat can replace iron supplements – make sure to consult your doctor regarding the same.
One of the more serious reasons for black stools during pregnancy is bleeding. It could be something as small as gastrointestinal bleeding due to extreme GERD, or something as serious as internal bleeding along your uterine tract. Regardless of the type of bleeding, it is essential to have it checked out by a doctor.
5. Health Issues
Black stools often indicate some health issues. If your stool is black and has an extremely foul odour, it could be a condition called melena. If the consistency is tarry and black, it could indicate internal bleeding. If during the third term of your pregnancy the anal region swells and the stools come out black, it could be a sign of an anal tear. Talk to a doctor to understand if the black stools are related to genetics or medical issues.
Doctors can diagnose the cause of your dark stools by first taking into account the history of your physical and medical condition. If they feel the information does not point to the reason for black stools, you might have to go through a combination of x-rays, blood tests and stool examinations. This can help identify the cause of the black stool. If this is still inconclusive, then the doctors could ask you to undertake an examination called an endoscopy which involves a trained practitioner placing a tube through your anal region with a camera attached to it. This tube will navigate the GI tract and try to identify the cause of the dark stool. They could also ask you to get a colonoscopy done to rule out colon infections and colon cancer as a cause.
Effective Measures to Avoid Dark Stools
Here are some effective ways to avoid dark stools during your pregnancy.
1. Increase Fibre Intake
One of the most effective ways to deal with digestive issues during pregnancy is consuming a high fibre and a mineral-rich diet that ensures your digestive system has an easy time processing and breaking down nutrients. However, this does not mean that you eliminate carbs entirely from your diet. It simply means that you increase the fibre component of your diet and consume complex and healthy carbs. Consulting a dietician and creating a meal plan that not only provides all the minerals, vitamins and nutrients your body needs but also helps enrich the efficiency of your GI tract will turn out to be beneficial.
2. Quit Smoking
Smoking is an extremely harmful habit that not only hurts your lungs and risks cancer but also deteriorates organ health which could cause digestive tract issues, raise your blood pressure, and even cause internal bleeding. Doctors highly recommend that you quit smoking in general but especially during your pregnancy as the risks are almost three times as bad as normal and could also impact your child’s health and delivery.
3. Stay Hydrated
One of the most common reasons behind your GI tract health deteriorating is dehydration. Water plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy digestive system as well as organ health, especially intestinal health. So, remember to drink the right amount of water and fluids during the day and consume water-rich food like watermelons, cucumbers and grapes.
4. Take the Correct Supplements
Taking iron and fibre supplements can help combat black stools. However, make sure you do not overconsume these supplements as they could cause black stools if not taken in moderation. Talk to your doctor before taking supplements and follow up with them regularly so they can change the type of supplements to ones that suit your body best.
5. Avoid Self-medicating
Some medications can cause black stools, which is why it is recommended that you do not self-medicate during the period of your pregnancy. Before consuming any over-the-counter medication, consult a doctor and ensure that you keep them in the loop about the medication you consume.
Remember that exercise is crucial for your well-being. Some light exercise will not only preserve organ health but will also help improve digestion and ensure muscle health. This is also known to help avoid black stools.
What to Do If You Notice Black Stools
It is best you consult your doctor immediately even if the cause is minor as it is best to rule out any danger. Remember that when you’re pregnant, you also carry the well-being of your child in your hands. Get the help of professionals whenever possible to rule out any future danger for both you and your child.
Even though black stools during pregnancy can be a mildly worrying sign, they don’t always indicate danger. Consult your doctor, follow up on the advice given, and ensure you keep an eye on the other symptoms. Communicate openly and in detail with your doctors so you take the right step forward.
References & Resources: Healthlinkbc