Diarrhea & Pregnancy – What You Should Know

Diarrhea in Pregnancy

Hormonal changes are one of the regular experiences that come with pregnancy. Hormonal changes may cause a variety of digestive conditions, and chief among these is diarrhea. Other digestive disorders include constipation and excessive gas. Although some of these digestive conditions come with pregnancy, it may not always be the case most of the time. While pregnant, diarrhea may also occur as a result of an infection or due to bowel disorder. Pregnent women must be cautious of the different causes of diarrhea.

The Meaning of Diarrhea

The professional opinion on diarrhea, according to most doctors, is when you experience 2 or more loosened stools in a day. These bowel movements are usually watery in most cases. The most dangerous risks associated with diarrhea is the likelihood of dehydration and malnutrition due to the excessive removal of water, which generally constitutes more than 50% of the adult’s body. Persistent Diarrhea poses severe dangers to not just a pregnant woman but the growing baby. The risk of losing too much water is is the reason pregnant women must seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

You should see a doctor If diarrhea persists or is severe in its occurrence. Severe diarrhea leads to dehydration and malnutrition, which is dangerous to the growing baby and the mother. If you experience any of the following symptoms outlined below, visit a doctor and seek professional medical care.

When Should I See a Doctor?

Seek medical attention if you experience the following:

  • If you have Diarrhea that lasts for more than 48 hours,
  • If you experience a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher,
  • Six or more bouts of diarrhea during any 24 hours,
  • Frequent vomiting,
  • Severe abdominal or rectal pain,
  • Dehydration symptoms including thirst, dark urine, urinating less, feeling lightheaded, or a dry mouth, or
  • Stools containing pus or blood.

Seeking medical attention will help people suffering from these symptoms assess medical treatment and keep baby and mother safe.

When Should You be Worried About Diarrhea?

Worrying about diarrhea is normal during pregnancy. Remember that it’s a common condition that can everyone including pregnant women. To date, there are no studies to suggest that diarrhea has bad effects on pregnancy.

Can Diarrhea be Caused by Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy?

Prostaglandin is one factor that can cause diarrhea in pregancy. Much like oxytocin, it stimulates uterine contractions and affects how the food travels through the body. This can cause diarrhea as it will speed up the bowel movement and diarrhea in your menstrual cycle.

The synthetic forms of prostaglandins, like Cytotec and misoprostol, are known to result in certain side effects, chief of which is diarrhea. With one effect of Misoprostol being the absorption of more water and electrolytes from the stomach, this causes diarrhea. It is important to note that one major reason for using Misoprostol is labor inducement

Is It True That Diarrhea Could Indicate Pregnancy?

Sometimes women may think they are pregnant when they have diarrhea because they are attempting to conceive. It is not true that diarrhea close to your menstrual cycle is due is an indication of pregnancy. Episodes of diarrhea could actually accompany all the changes in hormones that your body undergoes in the early days of pregnancy, so diarrhea shouldn’t be so strange during pregnancy. There are many different reasons why women may have very loose stools during the early period of pregnancy.

As we have said, an increase in prostaglandin level around the menstrual cycle results in diarrhea days/hours before the menstrual cycle begins. Other reasons for bowel movements may be a pervasive bowel disorder or food poisoning. Nausea, Serious fatigue, and sore breasts are some other and even more reliable first pregnancy indicators.

Can Diarrhea be Infectious?

Most diarrhea cases that occur during pregnancy are usually normal and shouldn’t really be a source of worry to the pregnant woman. As we have started, the most common cause of diarrhea during this period is bowel infection. It has some accompanying symptoms such as nausea and eventual vomiting, blood in the stools, lightheadedness/dizziness, chills/fever, among other mild symptoms.

Examples of organisms causing infectious diarrhea include; Campylobacter, Shigella, Escherichia coli, or Salmonella genera. Viruses like rotavirus or norovirus may be the cause of infectious diarrhea. As for parasites that may cause infectious diarrhea, they include Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium.
Through the consumption of contaminated food or water, one may become infected with malevolent organisms like the ones listed above. Also, traveling to developing countries usually have a higher chance of getting infectious diarrhea.

Could Diarrhea in Pregnant Women be an Indication of a Bowel Disorder?

Chronic diarrhea may be a result of a bowel disorder. There are many types of bowel disorders such as Crohn’s disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth

The symptoms that may occur due to these conditions listed above may cause other symptoms, including Fatigue, Joint and skin problems, Anemia, Cramping and abdominal pain, Bloating and gas, loss of weight, vomiting or nausea.

Anyone who suffers from diarrhea accompanied by one of these conditions should see a medical practitioner and get tested.

What are the Other Causes of Diarrhea in Pregnant Women?

Asides from the already listed causes, diarrhea may also occur from some other causes such as anxiety, stress, food allergies or intolerance, using certain medications, and consumption of sugar alcohol.

What Home Remedies Can Alleviate Diarrhea?

For women with minor diarrhea symptoms in pregnancy, there are certain home remedies that can be used to treat the condition. These home remedies are not treatments and should not, in any way, replace professional advice. They include:

Consuming fluids containing electrolytes to stay hydrated during the course of diarrhea. Liquids that contain electrolytes include broths, clear soups, sports drinks, caffeine-free sodas, etc.

Consuming foods like plain potatoes, toast, rice, saltine crackers, applesauce, or any other food that prevents electrolyte loss helps alleviate diarrhea while pregnant.

Just as certain foods alleviate diarrhea, some other foods worsen diarrhea. Examples of foods that worsen diarrhea are caffeinated drinks, dairy products, and foods that have high fat or sugar content.   

Could Medication During Pregnancy be Harmful?

It is important to speak with a doctor first before taking any medication during pregnancy. There are some medications that could be very harmful during pregnancy. There are also medications that have not been certified as safe during pregnancy, and it is better to avoid such medications. Using medications like Loperamide (Imodium) has not been known to cause any harm or fetal abnormalities in the first trimester of pregnancy, but it is better to be safe than sorry by speaking to a doctor first before taking such a medication. Oral rehydration therapy may also be prescribed in some cases.

Medications like diphenoxylate-atropine (Lomotil) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) must be completely avoided during pregnancy because ACG has not recommended them for some reasons. While Lomotil is confirmed to cause harm to the fetus around the second or third trimester, Pepto-Bismil increases the likelihood of having a baby with low weight. There is also a possibility for perinatal mortality and neonatal hemorrhage.

Is there a Reason for Repeated Diarrhea During the Third Trimester?

It is quite common for women to experience frequent diarrhea as their expected date of delivery approaches. A plausible explanation for this is that the body is adjusting in preparation for labor. Diarrhea close to the expected date of delivery is not necessarily an indication that labor is at hand, so pregnant women should not be alarmed. At this stage of pregnancy, Diarrhea should not necessarily be a problem.

How True is it that Diarrhea While Pregnant Causes Miscarriages?

There is always the fear that diarrhea could lead to a miscarriage, and this fear is understandable. There is a close similarity between cramps that precedes miscarriage and the cramps that accompany diarrhea. The organs that control these two conditions, the uterus, and the bowels, are also situated around the body’s same region. When a pregnant woman is passing stool due to diarrhea, the feeling may easily cause fears that such a pregnant woman is losing a baby. This fear is, however, unfounded. Although the uterus and the bowels are situated around the same region, they are completely separate from the reproductive organ, and the digestive organ is controlled differently and independently. Diarrhea is never an indication of a miscarriage.

Should Diarrhea Be a Cause to Worry?

Women are quick to assume that minor sickness during pregnancy could lead to serious harm to the growing baby. Diarrhea is a common condition not just for everyone but also for pregnant women. There are also many conditions that can cause diarrhea. Some of these conditions include main bowel problems as well as bowel infections. Hormonal changes are also a suspect for diarrhea in pregnant women. These conditions are temporary and will pass within a short time.

Diarrhea becomes dangerous once it continues for more than 2 days. After 2 days, pregnant women should seek immediate medical attention. This is also the recommendation for pregnant women who experience fever, notice blood in the stools, dehydration, or constant vomiting for long periods. The nine months of Pregnancy is delicate, and seeking medical attention at all times after prolonged conditions is the best choice in order to keep the mother and baby safe.
 
Pregnant women must endeavor to avoid self-medication, especially those that are used to treat diarrhea unless they are medications prescribed by a physician. During bouts of diarrhea, taking fluids, water, clear broth, and soups helps keep the body hydrated. Avoiding caffeine and sugary or fatty foods also helps to minimize dehydration. It is important to be guided by a doctor if diarrhea persists for long periods (8 hours or more).

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