When it comes to talking about bowel movements during pregnancy – and we do talk about them a lot - constipation seems to come up more than diarrhea.
But did you know that, during early pregnancy, diarrhea can be a very common symptom? From sudden changes in your diet, to hormones – diarrhea can hit you for a number of reasons.
Medically, diarrhea is defined as having three or more “loose” or “watery” bowel movements in a 24-hour period. If this describes your situation, your main concern should be your hydration levels.
Causes of diarrhea in early pregnancy
While constipation, a more common pregnancy symptom, can be caused by changes in your hormones, diarrhea is more likely to be caused by an external influence. These can include:
- Altering your diet
- The effects of a new pre-natal vitamin
- Food poisoning
- A contagious stomach virus or bug
On discovering that you are pregnant, you might alter your diet to include more nutritional foods, liquids and supplements. These changes can initially upset your stomach and cause diarrhea.
Diarrhea might even be caused by a pre-natal vitamin that you have started taking. Let your midwife or doctor know if you think this is the case and they may be able to recommend a different brand that is gentler on your stomach and bowel movements.
A roaming stomach bug or a bout of food poisoning can also be responsible for regular runs to the bathroom.
How to treat diarrhea
It’s likely that diarrhea will naturally clear up after a couple of days. To keep the discomfort and bathroom runs to a minimum during this time, give these tips a go:
- Hydrate – We mentioned it earlier but it’s the most important thing you can do when diarrhea hits. Drink plenty of water (for fluid intake), fresh juice (for potassium), and nutritious clear broth (to replenish sodium levels). This will rehydrate you and replace your missing electrolytes.
- Keep clear from offending foods – Dried fruits, sugary juices and soft drinks, milk, fatty or spicy foods – these will only exacerbate the situation. Stick to foods that will be gentler on your digestive tract, like bananas, rice, cooked carrots, natural yoghurt, toast and crackers.
- Say no to certain medications – Diarrhea medications that contain sodium are not recommended during pregnancy. If you’re not sure, check with your midwife or doctor to be safe.
Regardless of the severity of your diarrhea, always call your doctor or midwife if:
- You suspect a virus or bug is the cause of your diarrhea – you may need antibiotics
- Your diarrhea lasts longer than a couple of days
Managing diarrhoea while travelling and pregnant
When we travel overseas we open our bodies up to a number of foreign influences and diarrhea is a common response to these.
Some countries pose a higher risk of diarrhea than others, such as developing countries in South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The main reason people get diarrhea in these countries is from eating food or drinking water that is contaminated.
If you travel while pregnant, take these simple measures to help avoid getting diarrhea in high-risk countries:
- Don’t drink or brush your teeth with tap water – be careful of vegetables that have been washed in tap water as well, and ice as it is commonly made from tap water.
- Avoid eating food from street vendors.
- Avoid fruits that can’t be peeled or that you didn’t peel yourself.
All women, whether they’re pregnant or not, have some vaginal discharge after puberty. This becomes more or less depending on the monthly cycle.
Normal vaginal discharge resembles clear mucous. It originates in your cervix and its purpose is to keep your vagina clean and protect it from infection. Healthy vaginal discharge has a mild and non offensive smell.
Discharge during pregnancy is mostly harmless, there just tends to be more of it. Knowing what to look out for and being able to identify any changes is an important, safe practice for every woman
The causes of discharge during pregnancy
During pregnancy, your cervix and the walls of your vagina will start to soften. Discharge increases at this time to help prevent infections from travelling up to your uterus. This protects you and your baby.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, your baby’s head presses more and more on your cervix. This pressure can also cause vaginal discharge to increase.
In the last few weeks before birth, you might notice that your discharge also contains mucus and sometimes small specks of blood. This happens when your cervical plug (a ball of thick mucus that fills and protects your cervix during pregnancy) becomes dislodged. When you notice this, let your healthcare professional know. Although having “a show” is not a true sign of labour starting, it’s usually an early signal that you may be getting close to giving birth.
If you notice bleeding from your vagina at any stage in your pregnancy it’s important to let your doctor or maternity care provider know. Any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy needs to be checked. Excessive bleeding can be a sign of a serious complication.
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