Diarrhoea During Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

Have you just discovered that you are pregnant? There are chances that you are still not aware of the many symptoms of pregnancy that show up as the months. One such problem is diarrhoea which may be accompanied by other symptoms in pregnancy. You would be surprised at how it can affect you in this critical period. Let us explore the problem associated with your gut, and how it can be prevented and treated.

Diarrhoea and Pregnancy

Digestive problems are not uncommon during pregnancy. Is diarrhoea a symptom of pregnancy? Yes, diarrhoea can sometimes be the first symptom of pregnancy. It is normal to experience constipation or diarrhoea at some point of your journey to motherhood.

Diarrhoea is a condition where you pass three or more loose bowel movements over a period of 24 hours. If you experience diarrhoea, it is a good idea to thoroughly hydrate your body, as it loses a significant amount of fluids every time you defecate during pregnancy. The frequent bowel movements can cause dehydration which can be serious, but seldom life-threatening for mother and the unborn baby. Do not take symptoms like these lightly, especially if you are experiencing dysentery in pregnancy.

Why Diarrhoea is Common in Pregnancy

Most problems in pregnancy are a result of hormonal changes. Hormones play a spoiler for mothers-to-be, but they play a crucial role in the development of your child too. Most women go through the early symptoms of pregnancy including morning sickness, nausea, vomiting or even diarrhoea. You could even experience green diarrhoea because of pregnancy-related changes or general conditions. Hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (Hcg) usually have an impact on the gastrointestinal system. Though most women experience hormonal changes, only a few suffer from diarrhoea in their early months of pregnancy.

What Causes Diarrhoea During Pregnancy

There are a number of reasons that can cause diarrhoea during pregnancy. Some of these are listed below:

1. Hormonal changes

During pregnancy, the hormones produced by the body slow down the digestive function. This aids your developing embryo by extracting nutrients more efficiently from your food. However, this slowdown leads to problems like constipation. On the other hand, if the hormones speed up the digestive system it can cause diarrhoea.

2. Prenatal vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are important for the growing baby’s health. These supplements sometimes cause anupset stomach and diarrhoea. If these prenatal vitamins don’t agree with your stomach, then it is a good idea to check with your doctor and skip the vitamins for a few days to monitor the effects.

3. Variation in diet

As soon as you get pregnant, you are sure to become more conscious about your eating habits to incorporate more nutritious food. A sudden change in your diet could have an impact on your gut and could lead to diarrhoea.

4. Food sensitivities

If you are sensitive to certain types of food, eating them during pregnancy can impact your digestive system. You may discover a certain diet causing an upset stomach or bloating

5. Lactose intolerance

It is common knowledge that most doctors advice against giving milk to kids with an upset stomach because it is a natural laxative. The same may apply to you as well. The addition of milk to your diet is yet another significant dietary change that could cause diarrhoea during pregnancy.

Most women increase their milk consumption as soon as they discover that they are pregnant. Milk intake, however, can lead to diarrhoea if you suffer from lactose intolerance. Cutting milk for a few days can reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. However, do make sure that you include dairy products like cheese and yoghurt in your diet to meet your calcium requirements.

6. Bacterial and other reasons

If you are suffering from diarrhoea, it may not always be due to pregnancy related issues. You might suffer from loose motions because of bacteria, virus, intestinal parasites, stomach flu or food poisoning. If you have Crohn’s disease or complain of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease, diarrhoea may be a persistent issue.

Treatment of Diarrhoea while Pregnant

If you are suffering from diarrhoea, try following some of the below mentioned dietary changes to get rid of the problem.

1. Avoid some food groups

You may get some relief by making changes in your diet because some foods can worsen diarrhoea. You should avoid spicy, fried, high-fat, high-fibre foods, dairy and milk products.

If you are lactose intolerant, make sure you make up for your calcium intake by including other calcium-rich foods like fruits and leafy greens.

2. Be careful what you drink

It is advisable to avoid consuming coffee, tea, and grape juices as they may aggravate the condition. It is also best to avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks, dried fruits, red meat, spices, and sugary treats like candies and chocolates.

3. Follow the BRAT diet

Most times, doctors suggest a BRAT diet to soothe the digestive system. This diet includes bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Since these foods may not provide enough nutrients for you and the growing baby, doctors suggest adding the following items to your diet as well:

  • vegetables like cooked carrots
  • starchy foods like unsweetened cereals
  • crackers and potatoes
  • lean meats
  • soups with rice noodles or vegetable

Adding yoghurt, which contains lactobacillus acidophilus, to your diet is also a good idea because it helps keep infections away.

4. Check on the CRAM diet

This is an alternative diet you cab try called the CRAM diet which includes cereal, rice, applesauce and milk. These foods are comparatively better than the BRAT diet since they provide a significant amount of protein, which is good for the growing baby.

5. Keep yourself hydrated

If you are suffering from diarrhoea, you should consume a lot of water, juices, and broths to substitute the lost electrolytes. Water helps in replenishing the lost fluids while juices and broth help in replacing the potassium and sodium levels in your body. You are advised to take oral rehydration therapy because it is one of the most tested methods of controlling diarrhoea. This is an all-time therapy where you drink water with a good amount of sugar and salt, as well as supplemental zinc, for two weeks. It helps in absorbing water from the gastrointestinal tract as you tend to lose a lot of fluids through diarrhoea.

6. Keep a check on medications

Medications can be one of the reasons of diarrhoea, but your body usually adjusts to them after some time. If your prenatal vitamins are causing diarrhoea, the doctor may change the supplements prescribed or help you by treating diarrhoea in other ways. Remember not to take any over-the-counter anti-diarrhoea medications without your doctor’s consultation during pregnancy, as it could have an adverse effect on the child.

Home Remedies for Loose Motion During Pregnancy

It is best to turn to home remedies for any discomfort you face during your pregnancy. Over the counter drugs are not advisable when you are carrying and thus, in case of diarrhoea, you can try some of these home remedies:

  • Drink plenty of water to supplement the lost fluid in your body. Try to drink at least one litre every two hours.
  • Drink ginger tea because it has antispasmodic properties that may help relieve the symptoms of diarrhoea by reducing stomach spasms and the gases from the fermented material that causes frequent, watery stools. For this, you just need to boil some ginger and tea in water and allow it to stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and then consume with sugar or honey.
  • You can also try drinking three to four tablespoons of honey in a glass of lukewarm water. The antioxidant and antibacterial properties found in honey’s enzymes and amino acids help boost the immune system.

  • Lemon is a liver stimulant which helps in controlling irritable bowel movement and provides relief from diarrhoea. You can consume a mixture of lemon juice, crushed black pepper one-fourth teaspoon and half a teaspoon of ginger powder two times a day
  • You can also add peppermint extract to half a cup of water and drink it twice or thrice a day. The volatile oils in peppermint have been known to sooth irritable bowel syndrome, with their calming and numbing effects.
  • Psyllium husk is said to be effective as it reduces the frequency and severity of diarrhoea. It is anti-diarrhoeal which means it absorbs the water content from intestines and helps in managing diarrhoea.

How to Prevent Diarrhoea in Pregnant Women

You can prevent your gut from getting infected by cultivating a few simple habits:

  1. Avoid tap water because it could contain bacteria and pathogens.
  2. Make sure you don’t brush teeth with impure water, or use ice cubes made from tap water because of the reason stated above.
  3. Stay away from street vendors and avoid fruits that can’t be peeled because it could contain germs, or make sure you eat fruits which you can peel yourself like bananas and oranges.
  4. Don’t venture into areas with inadequate sanitation because there are more chances of getting exposed to virus and bacteria from faeces.
  5. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or seafood because they may contain viruses and bacteria
  6. Above all, maintain basic hygiene, and use hand sanitiser when you can’t use water.

Green Diarrhoea in Pregnancy 

If you are consuming vegetables rich in chlorophyll, then it may alter the colour of your stool to green. Food rich in iron could also be the cause of green poop while pregnant. It is generally caused by an excessive consumption of chlorophyll rich diet. It is worth noting that bile secreted in the main area of your small intestine is green and when the digested food along with the water passes through the large intestine the colour changes. There are chances that the waste matter passed through your large intestine quickly and as a result, the stool was unable to change colour. This process is known as rapid transit, which reduces the transit time of the bowels and causes green stools. Your iron supplements could even cause black stool during pregnancy.

But bright green diarrhoea could also be caused due to intestinal disorders, intestinal infections, and giardia or salmonella poisoning. If you think that diet is not responsible for the green stool during pregnancy then it is advisable to consult your gynaecologist as this could be the symptom of a more serious health issue.

Travellers’ Diarrhoea and Pregnancy

You may suffer from diarrhoea while travelling or it may happen within a week of travelling. The reason could be water or food that is contaminated with faecal deposits. In order to avoid travellers’ diarrhoea during pregnancy, avoid buying food from street vendors as they could contain germs. Maintain basic hygiene and follow the tips mentioned above.

FAQs

1. Is Diarrhoea A Normal Sign Of Early Pregnancy?

It could be one of the initial symptoms of pregnancy that one suffers from along with vomiting and nausea, aversions and food cravings. It could occur due to changes in hormone levels or other reasons discussed above.

2. Can Diarrhoea Cause Harm To Baby?

No, it doesn’t harm your unborn baby unless the condition is severe. If it’s severe then it will cause dehydration in the mother’s body and impede the blood flow to the foetus. However, diarrhoea caused by complications like uterine and abdominal infections during the second or third trimesters can be risky to the foetus.

3. Can Diarrhoea Occur In Second Trimester?

It is less common in the second trimester but if diarrhoea is followed by any other symptoms like fever or body aches, make sure you consult with a doctor for precautionary measures.

4. When Should One Take A Doctors Help?

If the symptoms persist for more than two days, then it is wise to see a doctor. Besides loose stools in pregnancy, keep a watch on symptoms like cramping or stomach pain, mucus or blood in the stool, severe headache or vomiting. Watch out for fever, reduced urine, and rapid heartbeat. If any other symptoms like diarrhoea cramps while pregnant show up then see your doctor to avoid any complications.

Diarrhoea During Late Pregnancy

It is believed that as you near the due date the frequency of diarrhoea increases since your body is preparing for labour, but this doesn’t mean that labour is just a few days away. Like every other pregnancy symptom, this differs from woman to woman too. Some may experience frequent diarrhoea in the last trimester, while some may not experience any of these symptoms. Mild diarrhoea in pregnancy is often short lived and is unlikely to harm your baby.

Conclusion

Now that you know the causes, symptoms, and prevention of diarrhoea, you can avoid this gut condition at any stage during pregnancy. You may consider the above-suggested home remedies to get quick relief as well. So, eat healthily and stay healthy to steer clear of any tummy problems during pregnancy.