Diarrhea during pregnancy is a condition to be taken far more seriously otherwise. The pregnancy is divided in three trimesters and in each case the causes and treatments do differ. Diarrhea is not to be treated lightly in any of the trimesters of pregnancy. The best care is the control on dietary habits and cares to make sure that such condition does not occur.
Causes of Diarrhea During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is divided in divided in three trimesters and in each case the care to be taken is not the same.
Diarrhea During Early Pregnancy
The diarrhea during early part of pregnancy (also called the morning sickness in many places) is a condition that is normally short lived. Nausea, vomiting and watery bowel movements need to be treated with care. If the symptoms of pregnancy are accompanied by stools with mucus or blood, it is an indication that something is seriously wrong and needs doctor’s attention early.
After the initial period of morning sickness is complete, diarrhea may stage a comeback due to many reasons many of which are related to pregnancy.
- Change in Dietary Habits. As soon as a woman comes to know about her pregnancy, the first thought that comes to her mind is “From now on I have to eat for two persons” and this is how the dietary habits begin to change. Any abrupt change is sure to cause diarrhea. The food becomes richer in fibrous food like fruits and vegetables. This is the best food for the constipated lady, but when the conditions are not suitable, diarrhea appears quickly. Another reason is the increase in milk consumption and where lactose intolerance is experienced, the diarrhea follows. If lactose intolerance is the cause of diarrhea, it is better to stop consumption of milk and supplementary doses of calcium rich food should be increased.
- Exercise. In case of women who were on a regular exercise regime before onset of pregnancy, introduction of exercise regime for pregnant women many not induce diarrhea. But in case where a woman not exercising regularly earlier to pregnancy, the diarrhea may appear for a short time and careful increase in exercise pattern may not affect the health. The diarrhea in such cases is temporary and will go away after the body gets accustomed to the exercise pattern. Such diarrhea if treated properly (under care of a doctor) is unlikely to cause harm to the pregnant woman or the child. The changes in sleeping patterns also need to be watched at the same time and exercises changed accordingly.
- Bacteria and Viruses. During early stages of pregnancy a woman is susceptible to attack from bacteria or viruses. Most of the viruses to be guarded against are rotavirus, adenovirus or norovirus. The diarrhea caused by viruses is not very serious and goes away if treated in time. The diarrhea caused by bacteria is more serious affair which is to be taken seriously. The water borne contamination is mostly responsible for such diarrhea and is caused by the bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella or Shigella.
- Pregnancy Hormones. The gastrointestinal tract works less and relaxes more during the first trimester of pregnancy. The added dose of pregnancy hormones that the body generates also cause due to pregnancy (to cater for the fetus), which can also be responsible for diarrhea. This is best treated by doctor and should be taken seriously.
- Parasites. Contaminated foods and drinks are responsible for introduction of parasites and causing diarrhea. Contaminated foods and drinks are best avoided by a pregnant woman so that the diarrhea due to this is completely eliminated. The parasites are often cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, entameba or histolytica.
- Other Reasons. Other bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease may also cause diarrhea. The laxatives taken as cure for the “not easy to digest” food, antacids and antibiotics also can bring about medicine-induced diarrhea.
Diarrhea During Late Pregnancy
In fact, diarrhea can occur anytime during pregnancy due to change in diet and hormonal changes. In the third trimester of pregnancy, the diarrhea lasts just one or two days and goes away. The persistent for over two days need to be taken seriously and advice of doctor sought immediately. In later stages it could also be an indication of start of early labor pains.
Green Diarrhea During Pregnancy
Diarrhea may not be a cause of concern for a pregnant woman but when the color of stool changes to green, the woman gets alarmed, sometimes just unnecessarily. The food rich in chlorophyll can cause green stools. During pregnancy the consumption of green food increases. The intake of iron rich medicines, vitamins and dietary supplements taken during pregnancy can also be the reason of green stools.
So unless there is a clear case of diarrhea, just the color of stools need not be a reason of concern for a pregnant lady. If you get a green stool, just go through what you have eaten last and you might feel relieved of the anxiety from green stool. Only when you are sure that the food you ate yesterday cannot be the reason of green stool, you should approach the doctor. Green stools are just an early indication and not a confirmation of start of diarrhea.
However the green stools accompanied by other indications can be a cause of concern and should not be ignored. If you see some other symptoms along with green stools, that is the time to see a health care provider.
Brown color is indication of a healthy stool, but green stools do not always indicate danger. A quick pass through to the large intestine can cause green color to the stools. And this may be called green diarrhea. This is not a cause for alarm if not accompanied by other symptoms. So let your common sense take over and not worry too much just by the color of stool.
Treatments of Diarrhea During Pregnancy
The treatment of diarrhea during pregnancy should be minimum care but extreme caution. The diarrhea during pregnancy gets repaired early even without medication. The better idea is to remain healthy and avoid dehydration at all times. The battle against diarrhea during pregnancy is won by following methods.
- Drink plenty of fluids in order to avoid de-hydration. If needed, oral re-hydration solutions can also be used.
- The diet should consist of banana, rice, apple and toast, which is called BRAT diet. Try to do away without milk and yoghurt. Bland diet with mixed vegetables, meat and fiber can be tried after you are comfortable with the BRAT diet.
- Sometime when the diarrhea is severe, the intravenous drip may be necessary, but the decision is left to the discretion of treating doctor.
- Avoid self-medication completely during pregnancy. Even headache tablets need to be taken with advice from the doctor. Sometimes even a small aspirin tablet taken without doctor’s orders may cause severe ulcerations that can harm the mother and the baby greatly. Diarrhea during pregnancy is to be treated with caution but not alarm. It can always be treated if detected and reported early. This will make sure that side effects are minimized.
- Fatty foods and high sugar drinks are best avoided during pregnancy. Energy drinks like Gatorade are a better substitute.