Pregnancy and diarrhea are two terms that are often entered together into a search engine on the internet. Obviously, many pregnant women must be experiencing diarrhea, but prefer to search for information anonymously rather than discuss their complaints with their healthcare provider. This is understandable since our culture has communicated to us so many unspoken restrictions about bodily functions. But pregnant women have a right to be concerned about diarrhea, and they need to know if what they are experiencing is only mild and will go away shortly, or if they have a more severe form and need to make a trip to their healthcare provider. Expectant mothers are in need of good medical advice on how to deal with diarrhea during pregnancy.
You have diarrhea if you experience loose stools over a period of time from several hours to ten days. Most cases are mild and not a cause for concern and will clear up in 24 hours, but severe diarrhea is characterized by at least three loose or watery stools a day. If your diarrhea lasts longer than two days, you should call your doctor, or if your stools contain blood, have mucous or are watery. Additional concerns, which should be evaluated by a doctor, would be nausea and severe vomiting.
How Diarrhea Effects Pregnancy
Diarrhea usually will not harm the developing baby because whatever is causing the loose stool in the digestive tract is separate from the reproductive system. Remember most cases are mild and will improve on their own. However, there is the risk of severe dehydration from the diarrhea which can affect the baby. When there is not enough fluid in the body, internal organs are deprived of blood, and this can led to rapidly-developing shock. So seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms along with the diarrhea:
- Excessive thirst
- Dry mouth
- Little or no urine (or dark yellow urine)
- Decreased tears
- Severe weakness or lethargy
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
If you have experienced loose stools and it suddenly becomes watery as you start to feel better, it may actually be a sign that you are getting better, and it is nature’s way of clearing out the digestive system. In late pregnancy, diarrhea can be a sign that labor is about to start. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances secreted in the body which bring on the loose stools to clear out the digestive tract for the birth.
Causes of Diarrhea in Pregnancy:
Usually the causes of diarrhea originate externally with the food and drinks that you are putting into your body. Maybe, you have overloaded on fiber and overcome your constipation only to find out that it has been replaced by diarrhea. Perhaps, you have completely changed your diet to eat healthier for your baby and your system isn’t used to this new food. Prenatal vitamins can also be the culprit, and you might need to change brands even though prenatal vitamins are mostly infamous for causing constipation. If it is food poisoning, you might be in misery for twenty-four hours, but it usually clears up quickly, or it could be an intestinal parasite or stomach flu. Pregnant women are more prone to infections because their immune systems become more lax during this time.
Home Remedies for Pregnancy and Diarrhea:
- Drink more fluids to prevent dehydration. If you have lost electrolytes (minerals and salts) in the fluids, you can replace them by drinking oral rehydration fluids (ORF) which can be purchased at most pharmacies or grocery stores without a prescription. Do not rely on sports drinks which may not necessarily replace electrolytes.
- Stop eating and allow your digestive system to rest for a few hours.
- Slowly reintroduce bland, easy-to-digest foods to your system. The BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, has been around for a long time to help diarrhea sufferers cope.
- Try eating yogurts with live, active cultures. Probiotics are loaded with the good bacteria needed by the digestive tract, and they may help subdue the bad bacteria which may be causing the diarrhea. They have proven safe and beneficial for everyone in studies.
- Avoid caffeine and dairy products.
- Avoid fatty and spicy foods.
- Avoid drinks high in sugars such as apple and grape juices, and soft drinks which can draw water into the stomach and prolong the diarrhea.
Always be in contact with your healthcare provider for your unique situation and for medical expertise to handle more than mild episodes of diarrhea. Remember that your baby is relying on you for a healthy start in life.
Diarrhea in Pregnancy. (2009). Retrieved August 7, 2009, from Women’s Healthcare Topics.
Diarrhea in Pregnancy. (2009). Retrieved August 6, 2009, from Whattoexpect: http://www.whattoexpect.com
Murkoff, H. (2009). Diarrhea in Pregnancy. Retrieved August 6, 2009, from Pampers Village: http://www.pampers.com
Rose, M. S., & Christie, M. J. (n.d.). Pregnancy in Gastrointestinal Disorders. Retrieved August 6, 2009, from American College of Gastroenterology: http://www.acg.gi.org
written by Joy Seeman
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