Pregnancy can be a rewarding period for a new mom. However, the complications and issues that come with it can put a damper on one’s happiness. One such complication that arises during pregnancy and can become quite troublesome if not treated quickly is diarrhea.
Almost 1 in every 5 women suffers from diarrhea during the first and last weeks of her pregnancy. Although there is no need to worry about the condition initially, one would need to keep a check on the same and take extra measures to make sure it does not affect the pregnancy.
Common Causes of Diarrhea During Pregnancy
A pregnant woman may suffer from diarrhea due to several reasons. Given below are some of the more common ones.
Every woman would undergo a sea of physical and emotional changes during pregnancy. These changes can be attributed to the sudden surge in the hormonal levels during this period. The large amounts of pregnancy hormones produced during pregnancy can slow down the digestion process in pregnant women. And though this is done to enable the fetus to absorb more nutrients effectively, it could cause side effects like abdominal cramps, abdominal gas, constipation and diarrhea etc. in the mother.
In some cases, a woman could suffer from diarrhea during pregnancy if she happens to be lactose intolerant. In the case of lactose intolerance, the individual in question would not be able to digest the sugars present in milk and other dairy products. This can cause conditions like abdominal cramps, gas or diarrhea etc.
Pregnant women would usually start changing their regular diet in order to accommodate the developing fetus inside. As a result, many women resort to eating plenty of fiber rich foods, fruits and vegetables in addition to drinking plenty of water during pregnancy. While this is considered good to treat conditions like constipation during pregnancy, it could cause the opposite reaction in non constipated individuals, i.e. diarrhea. And this would be experienced during the first few weeks of the pregnancy.
Stomach Viruses or Flu
Intestinal parasites or stomach flu can lead to diarrhea during pregnancy. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to these kinds of parasites and easily contract an infection that can affect the gastrointestinal tract and cause diarrhea.
Some women may become allergic to the ingredients present in prenatal supplements during pregnancy. For instance, while the iron present in certain prenatal vitamins can cause constipation in pregnant women, other ingredients can cause diarrhea.
A condition associated with constipation, fecal impaction is said to occur when the stool becomes too hard and large to pass out of the intestine. As a result, it obstructs the large bowel partially or completely. Watery stool present behind the obstruction would then leak around the obstruction and appear as diarrhea. In this case, the person would also experience other side effects like abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and vomiting etc.
Some women may get diarrhea during the last few weeks of their pregnancy. Mild diarrhea at this stage would indicate that the body is preparing itself for the delivery that would follow soon. Therefore, diarrhea experienced during late pregnancy can be taken as a symptom of imminent labor.
Other Causes for Diarrhea During Pregnancy
Food poison can cause diarrhea in pregnant women. The body would be very vulnerable to external elements during pregnancy and can easily react to certain substances present in the food. Certain kinds of antacids or antibiotics can also cause diarrhea during pregnancy. And in certain cases, women who suffer from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis etc. can contract diarrhea during pregnancy.
Warning Signs that should not be ignored
Although diarrhea during pregnancy is quite harmless and can be taken lightly, it can become a cause for concern if it persists for more than 24 hours. Even mild diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days needs to be reported to a doctor for medical evaluation.
Persistent diarrhea during pregnancy can lead to dehydration that can in turn cause risks to both the mother and her child (in most cases, dehydration is known to cause premature labor). Some women may also experience conditions like dehydration, excessive thirst, dark colored urine, infrequent urination, or tacky skin etc. with diarrhea in which case they would need to contact a physician.
In certain cases, a woman may contract a stomach infection that could lead to diarrhea. Fecal impaction owing to constipation could also cause diarrhea and would need to be checked out by a physician. It is also considered wise to contact the physician if diarrhea is accompanied by conditions like fever, abdominal pain or contractions etc. In certain cases, the stools may contain mucous or blood, or can be ‘explosive’ in nature. These should be reported to a physician immediately.
Certain medications can also cause diarrhea in pregnant women. If the cause for the condition is revealed to be certain medications that you started to take recently, you may need to ask your doctor to prescribe an alternative that would not cause any side effects like diarrhea.
Effective Remedies for Diarrhea during Pregnancy
If you seem to suffer from diarrhea during pregnancy, here are some effective remedies you can try out to treat the condition and prevent recurrences.
Change your diet
The best way to keep conditions like diarrhea at bay during pregnancy is to avoid certain foods that can act as potential triggers. Staying away from milk, dried fruits, starchy foods (crackers, potatoes, cereals etc.), spicy foods, fatty foods, dairy products, red meats, noodles, soups etc. can help prevent diarrhea during pregnancy.
Opt for the BRAT diet wherein you would need to eat bland foods that are easy to digest. These include foods like lean meats, bananas, cooked vegetables, yogurt, apples, rice and toast etc.
Opt for water and sports drinks over soft drinks and other sugary drinks that can lead to water retention in the stomach and aggravate conditions like diarrhea. Drinking plenty of water can keep your body hydrated and flush out the intestinal impurities that could be causing the condition.
Try OTC or Prescribed Medications
Always make it a point to check with your doctor about taking over the counter medications to treat any kind of complications during pregnancy. In the case of diarrhea, you would need to stay away from medications that have sodium or its compounds as ingredients. Do not take any medications for diarrhea if your stools contain blood or you have fever.
Loperamide is an effective OTC medication that is used to treat diarrhea in pregnant women. The standard dosage for these pills is 2 pills at the start followed by 1 pill after every loose bowel movement. Make it a point to not take more than 8 pills in a day.
Diphenoxylate requires a medication and is stronger than Loperamide. The standard dosage for this medication is 8 pills a day (2 pills split into 4 intervals). The dosage needs to be reduced to 2 pills a day as the intensity of the condition reduces. Dipehnoxylate may produce some side effects in pregnant women and needs to be taken after careful consideration.