Many women complain of constipation when they get pregnant, but if you’re expecting, you must realize it can go the other way, too. It’s not uncommon to experience diarrhea, which is defined as having three loose bowel movements (or more) within 24 hours. Diarrhea can happen any time during your first, second, and third trimesters, and it can be caused by a wide range of factors.
These factors are related to the normal changes your body goes through as it adjusts to your baby. For instance, your pregnancy might have caused you to become sensitive to foods that didn’t affect you before, causing you to experience an upset stomach and loose bowel movements.
Hormonal changes can also be the culprit. Some hormones can slow down bowel movement, leading to constipation, while others can speed it up and cause you to have diarrhea.
Loose bowel movements can also be attributed to the lifestyle changes you make due to your pregnancy. For example, if you started to eat more fruits and vegetables when you found out you were pregnant, the increase of fiber in your diet can lead to diarrhea. This can also be the case if you’ve increased your water intake or are doing some pregnancy exercises.
The prenatal vitamins you take may also cause diarrhea. Don’t stop taking them, though; after all, these vitamins are essential to your baby’s growth and development and help him have good health. Talk to your doctor to know whether you should stick to your current vitamin supplements until your body adjusts to them or if you need to take a different brand.
Non-pregnancy related causes
Of course, not all cases of diarrhea can be attributed to pregnancy-related factors. In many instances, it’s caused by medical issues unrelated to pregnancy at all. For instance, women who have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, or irritable bowel syndrome are more prone to having episodes of diarrhea during pregnancy and beyond than those who don’t.
You might also experience loose bowel movements if you catch the stomach flu or if you get infected by any other type of virus or bacteria that affects your digestive system. This is also the case if you get intestinal parasites.
Take note that certain medications can cause diarrhea. Some examples include antacids, antidepressants, antibiotics, and proton pump inhibitors (which are used to treat acid reflux and ulcers). Talk to your doctor if you have just been prescribed any of these medications.
He might switch to a different drug that doesn’t cause diarrhea as a side effect and/or give you tips on how to manage loose bowel movements while pregnant.
Diarrhea can also be caused by food poisoning, which can happen any time during your pregnancy. To avoid this, make sure the food you eat is always fresh and clean and prepared in a hygienic way. If you’re eating out and are not sure of the quality of the dishes served, it’s better to go home and prepare your own meal than risk the chance of getting food poisoning.
Diarrhea and labor
As mentioned above, you can get loose bowel movements at any time. However, they become more common in your third trimester as you near your due date and your body starts preparing itself for labor. There’s no need to be alarmed, though, since getting diarrhea doesn’t automatically mean you’ll go into labor right away.
It’s also important to note that not all pregnant women will have loose bowel movements in their third trimester. Each person has a different experience, and the degree and frequency of diarrhea varies from one mother-to-be to another.
In most instances, diarrhea will resolve itself after a day or two. Just make sure to drink plenty of water to replenish what you’ve lost. Remember: dehydration can lead to premature labor, so make it a point to increase your fluid intake.
You’ll also want to avoid foods and drinks that can contribute to loose bowel movements. Milk and dairy products are great for pregnant women, but you’ll want to stay away from them while you’re experiencing diarrhea since they can upset your stomach. This is also the case for oily, fatty, spicy, and high-fiber dishes.
Instead, stick to foods that are gentle to your stomach and won’t make your diarrhea worse. The recommended diet is BRAT, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. You can also add crackers, potatoes, and unsweetened cereal (without milk) as well as rice- or noodle-based soups made without any dairy products.
When to seek help
If you’re pregnant, it’s not advisable to take anti-diarrhea medications without your doctor’s approval. So, if you’ve been experiencing loose bowel movements for two or three days, visit your physician right away. Don’t wait any longer since you’re probably already dehydrated even if you’ve been drinking plenty of water.