Pregnancy Diarrhea: Causes and Treatment Options

Pregnancy Diarrhea

Most women expect to spend more time in the bathroom when they’re pregnant. Tiny feet kicking your bladder have a way of sending you running for relief. But if your urgent bathroom visits are for #2, you may wonder if diarrhea is a sign that something’s wrong with you or your baby.

What Causes Diarrhea in Pregnancy?

You can experience loose stools at any time in pregnancy, although it’s more common in the third trimester.

First, diarrhea isn’t necessarily a pregnancy “symptom” or side effect at all! Like at any other time, illness or health conditions can cause loose stool:

  • Food poisoning
  • Virus
  • Stomach bug
  • Conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s disease

Changes in your diet can also mess with digestion. If morning sickness makes your usual veggie favorites or high-fiber cereals unappealing, and cravings send you to the drive-through, you may well experience some unwanted side effects in the bathroom. Even going the other way around, from a convenience-based diet to full-on health food to nurture your fetus, can temporarily throw your body for a loop.

The pregnancy hormones in your body and sometimes prenatal vitamins can also trigger diarrhea.

Is Diarrhea Dangerous in Pregnancy?

In most cases, diarrhea is more of an unpleasant time for you than a threat to your little one. A stomach bug or food sensitivity isn’t typically cause for concern as far as the baby goes.

The two main reasons to worry about diarrhea would be:

  1. You’re having trouble staying hydrated
  2. You suspect diarrhea is one symptom of a uterine or vaginal infection

In both cases, the diarrhea in and of itself isn’t the issue. The infection, or the slower blood flow to the developing baby due to dehydration, is the source of potential harm.

Strange as it may sound, there may come a day when you feel a rush of happiness and excitement at having diarrhea! Loose stools are common at the very end of pregnancy, because the body is preparing for labor. “Fast-tracking” your digestive system is one trick the body has to focus as many resources as possible to labor. So if your due any day now and have a sudden change in bowel movements, make sure your hospital bag is packed!

Natural and Medical Remedies for Pregnancy Diarrhea

Avoiding diarrhea before it becomes a problem is ideal, although it’s not always possible. Whether you’re treating an upset tummy or hoping to prevent one, it’s helpful to start at the beginning of the process by watching what you eat. Good foods for sensitive stomachs include:

  • BRAT diet staples (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast)
  • Potatoes and other starchy vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Spinach (the magnesium can cut down secretion of certain stomach acids, settling your stomach)
  • Lean meat
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Fermented foods with probiotic culture, like yogurt and sourdough bread

Meanwhile, limit consumption of foods that can trigger an upset stomach or looser stool:

  • Fried food
  • Spicy food
  • “P” fruits, like prunes, pears, peaches, and plums (especially dried versions of these, which are easy to overeat)
  • Apple juice, sodas, and other beverages with lots of simple sugars
  • Milk

Staying hydrated is important to replace fluids your body needs. Try bottled water if you’re sensitive to tap water, or add some ginger tea into the mix to soothe your stomach.

If natural remedies aren’t helping, there are several over-the-counter medications that are safe during pregnancy. Imodium is generally considered safe to use while pregnant. Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol, and Lotomil contain substances that can cross the placenta and potentially be harmful, so some doctors recommend against using these unless necessary.

If you haven’t found relief after two days or are running for the bathroom more than three times a day, it’s time to get a doctor’s help. But, gross as it might be, you can at least rest assured that you’ve got solidarity and sympathy from many other moms on the block.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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