15-04-2021 / Gynecology and Motherhood

Diarrhea During Pregnancy - Causes and Treatment

Based on the research carried out on the rural South Asian population, it was noted that diarrhea during pregnancy was correlated with a significantly increased risk of SGA infants. Here are a few home remedies and treatment

Diarrhea During Pregnancy - Causes and Treatment
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed

Mazia Ahmed

MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar

Table of Content


  • Difficulties linked with the digestive system, such as constipation and diarrhea, may often occur during pregnancy. It can be due to shifting of hormones, diet changes, and added stress due to pregnancy. It has been noted that pregnant women suffer from diarrhea quite a lot. If they are not cautious enough, it may result in serious problems such as SGA (Small for Gestational Age) infants, resulting in indirect infant mortality.

  • Based on the research carried out on the rural South Asian population, it was briefly noted that diarrheal illness during pregnancy was correlated with a significantly increased risk of SGA infants. Small-for-gestational-age (SGA) has been found to contribute 60–80% of infant mortality worldwide. Programs to reduce diarrheal illness during pregnancy may have a positive impact on SGA births in resource-limited environments.

  • The association between diarrhea during pregnancy and adverse effects on newborns is a discussion to be considered seriously. We already know that women with diarrhea during pregnancy are considerably more likely to have SGA newborns. However, Low birth weight (LBW) and preterm birth incidence did not differ between women without diarrhea and women with diarrhea during pregnancy. 

Infant mortality rate in India

Graph of infant mortality rate 2009-2019 (60-80% contributed by SGA)

Why diarrhea is common during pregnancy

If you are experiencing more than three loose bowel movements in a single day, there's a chance that you may have diarrhea. The problem of diarrhea during pregnancy is very common. Here are some pregnancy-related causes for diarrhea:

1. Diet changes

Many women tend to make drastic diet changes when they find out that they are pregnant to eat healthy for the developing baby. This immediate shift in food intake can become a reason for your upset stomach, and this can potentially cause diarrhea.

2. New food sensitivities

Food sensitivities are one of the many transitions you'll experience during your pregnancy. This means that foods that never disconcerted you before pregnancy may now cause you an upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas.

3. Prenatal vitamins

Putting up prenatal vitamins during pregnancy is good for the health of both you and your developing baby. However, sometimes the intake of these vitamins can make your stomach upset, resulting in diarrhea.

4. Hormone changes

Hormone changes may make your digestive system slow down, so this may result in a constipation problem for you. But, hormones can also speed up your digestive system, which may give rise to diarrhea.

When to see a doctor for  Diarrhea in Pregnancy

Diarrhea commonly occurs in the third trimester

  • As you'll come near to your due date, you'll find that diarrhea's problem becomes more common. This may happen because your body is preparing itself for labor. Diarrhea does not always mean that your labor day is just a few days away, so you don't need to be too concerned due to the increased frequency of diarrhea.

  • However, some women will not even encounter frequent diarrhea in their third trimester, though other women will. It differs from person to person, and each woman's experience will be distinct from others. Pregnant women should go for week-by-week pregnancy guidance and healthcare experts' tips to better understand their unique condition.

  • Sometimes the reason for getting diarrhea during your pregnancy period is not necessarily due to pregnancy. Some other factors may lead you to diarrhea during your pregnancy.

Here are some reasons other than pregnancy that may cause this problem:

1. virus

2. Bacteria

3. Stomach flu

4. Intestinal parasites

5. Food poisoning

6. Medications

  • Apart from these, certain other conditions also make diarrhea more prevalent. These include celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease.

How to treat diarrhea during pregnancy

If you are skeptical of pills while you are pregnant, there is good news for you. You may not have to take any supplementary prescriptions to treat your diarrhea. In fact, most cases of diarrhea get back to normal without any additional treatment. However, if you need some way to deal with it, a few home treatments are available.

1. Give it time

Most cases of diarrhea will get cleared up within a week, especially if it is the outcome of a bug or virus, bacteria, or food poisoning.

2. Stay hydrated

Keep yourself hydrated for Healthy Kidney
  • If you are experiencing diarrhea, you need to stay hydrated. Watery and loose bowel movements extract a significant amount of fluid from your body. Dehydration can arise promptly and can become a severe problem, especially for pregnant women.

  • Even when pregnant women are not undergoing digestive problems, they still need more water than everybody else. Keep drinking the water to restore the fluids you are losing. You must drink some juice and broth to help supplant some of the vitamins, electrolytes, and minerals that your body has been losing due to diarrhea.

3. Consider your medication

If a prescribed medication you are taking is provoking diarrhea, it is not a serious issue, and within no time, your body will be able to adjust to it, and your diarrhea may stop. But, if it's taking a long time to go away, inform your doctor.

4. See a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if your diarrhea does not stop after 2 or 3 days. Your doctor will physically examine you and may take out some blood samples to determine the cause of your diarrhea.

5. Avoid problematic foods

Certain food groups can make diarrhea worse. Stay away from high-fat, spicy foods, fried meals, milk and other dairy products, and high-fiber diets.

6. Do not take over-the-counter medicine.

Never try to consume any anti-diarrheal medication without the consultation of your doctor. Certain conditions may get worsened by using these medicines. Besides, they are not considered safe for everyone to use.

When you should seek treatment

Prolonged diarrhea can result in dehydration. Severe dehydration can cause pregnancy complications. Call your doctor right away if you notice symptoms of dehydration. Some of the common symptoms of dehydration include:

  • dark yellow urine

  • Dry, sticky mouth

  • Thirst

  • Decreased urine output

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Lightheadedness

You can stave off dehydration during your pregnancy by drinking a minimum of 80 ounces of water each day.

Prevention Tips for Diarrhea

1. Safe drinking water:

Developing countries have become breeding land for contagious illnesses due to negligible or flawed standards of hygiene. Water contamination, following with insufficient availability of safe drinking water, is one of the most chronic contributors to this problem. Vessels that we use for storing water at our homes must be kept covered at all times and should never get direct contact with potentially unclean hands to prevent contamination. As an added precaution, boiling and treating water before drinking is always a good exercise.

2. Toilet hygiene:

  • Convenient and proper dumping of human waste is an often overlooked aspect of sanitation and hygiene that leads to the origin of disease-causing germs. One must ensure that the toilet in-use is linked directly to the on-site sanitation system or sewage for instant removal of fecal matter. The toilet must be properly flushed after each use, and the pan should be regularly cleaned with a toilet cleaner and brush to avoid any build-up of debris and germs on the inward surfaces of the toilet. Cleaning the outside and area around the toilet is equally important, such as the cistern, the seat, flush handle, and so on. Keep them spotless and free from germs.

  • It is essential to clean toilet and bathroom floors with surface disinfectant liquid occasionally. Cover the toilet at all times to stave off flies from bringing in germs and other contamination of the environment in and around your house.

  • The brushes and clothes you use for cleaning the toilet should be kept separate from the other cleaning equipment you use to clean the rest of the house.

3. Food hygiene:

  • When it comes to food, one must maintain good hygiene; this will ensure the prevention of food poisoning that might lead to diarrhea and gastroenteritis. Here are some factors that you must follow to keep your food hygienic:

  • After cooking, especially fish, raw meat, or eggs, disinfect any kitchen surfaces you have used and clean them properly. Use hot water and detergent to clean dirty utensils, crockery, and cutlery.

Food Hygine
  • Separately store the raw and cooked food each time.

  • Make sure that the food you cook is not left undercooked.

  • Do properly refrigerate the food items to prohibit the growth of bacteria.

  • Before you start cooking or eating, make sure that you have washed your hands thoroughly with a good hand wash or at least have cleaned it with a good hand Sanitizer.

Word of Wisdom

Diarrhea is a common disease that can impact anyone, including women who are expecting a baby. You can follow the above-mentioned home treatments and preventive measures to prevent diarrhea. It is better to keep your surroundings hygienic; this is one of the management procedures to halt diarrhea. If your diarrhea exceeds 48 hours, then speak to your doctor about it. Seek immediate medical care if you see symptoms such as bloody stools, dehydration, frequent vomiting, or fever. Make sure to ask your doctor before taking any medication for diarrhea. 

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