Pregnancy Diarrhea – Causes and What You Can Do About It


Of the more common pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy diarrhea often takes a back seat. But don’t be surprised if you experience it! This disorder may not be directly caused by pregnancy hormones (like constipation and other common symptoms), but it’s actually possible.

Diarrhea is medically described as having three or more liquid bowel movements within a day. Personally, I did not experience diarrhea when I was pregnant. There are some women though, who come up to me and ask about safe diarrhea medications to take. So before we talk about that, here are some possible causes for pregnancy diarrhea.

What can Cause Pregnancy Diarrhea?

There are a number of possible causes for having diarrhea. One of them is a sudden change in diet. Once you find out you’re pregnant, you may suddenly opt for healthier foods to ensure adequate nutrition for your baby. Or, you may have eaten too many fruits or vegetables that your stomach isn’t used to. Such a drastic change can possibly cause an upset stomach, resulting in diarrhea.

Another possible scenario would be a new sensitivity to certain foods. Pregnancy can cause your body to react more delicately to foods you’ve eaten before. This can lead to diarrhea as well. If you’re experiencing runny stools, check your diet for new foods you’ve eaten the day before, or for foods you’ve eaten too much of. This will help you prevent episodes of it in the future.

In some women, the hormonal changes can cause changes in digestion. Early in pregnancy (Read more about symptoms in the first trimester – I’m Pregnant! Now What? – Your First Trimester and Its Symptoms) , the body may still be adapting to an increased level of hormones. Such changes in the internal balance of hormones could cause diarrhea in some women.

It’s also a good idea to check out the vitamins or medications you’re taking. Some women experience an upset stomach as a reaction to a new kind of prenatal vitamin, or to certain medications.

In the third trimester (Read more about it in my previous post – Your Third Pregnancy Trimester and Symptoms to Expect), a number of women may experience frequent diarrhea. This may have something to do with the changes that occur. Such changes may signal that the body is preparing itself for labor and delivery. In certain instances, it may be a frequent symptom at this stage.

In some cases, you may have eaten contaminated food or water. A viral or bacterial infection could be the culprit. Other causes include the stomach flu, food poisoning, or intestinal parasites. In such cases, it’s best to pay your doctor a visit.

Treatments for Pregnancy Diarrhea

One of the mainstay treatments for diarrhea is to rehydrate yourself. Diarrhea causes you to lose a lot of fluid and electrolytes. This means that you’ll have to replace those fluids and electrolytes to prevent severe dehydration, which can cause serious harm to both you and your baby. Drink lots of water, fruit juice, and clear broth to replace any fluid losses.

It’s also important to try to eat when you can. Though you may feel like you’ve lost any appetite, taking in food and fluids can help maintain your strength and prevent any further complications. You can also opt to take an oral rehydration solution, which contains just the right dose of sodium potassium and glucose to replenish the electrolytes you lost.

Taking anti-diarrheal medications isn’t safe when you’re pregnant. This means that you’ll have to make do with waiting for the symptoms to pass, or in cases of an infection, take the medications prescribed by your doctor.

It’s also best to avoid foods that trigger stomach upset like spicy foods, greasy foods, high-fat foods, and in some cases, milk and dairy if they’re the culprit for diarrhea.

All in all, try to avoid eating foods that may have triggered diarrhea. If it persists for more than two or three days and comes with other symptoms like vomiting (read more about it in my previous post – Vomiting in Pregnancy – How to Keep Morning Sickness Away)  or fever, it’s best to see your doctor.