While constipation is a better-known side effect of pregnancy, a third of women suffer from the opposite problem: diarrhea during pregnancy.
Why diarrhea can happen
Typically, everything in the bowel department slows right down during pregnancy. So if you’ve got loose bowels, it’s probably due to external factors like a sudden change in diet, prenatal vitamins or other medications, the stomach flu, or in extreme cases, food poisoning, says Suzanne Wong, an OB/GYN at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto.
There is one caveat: diarrhea will often rear its head in the third trimester thanks to the release of the chemical prostaglandin, which causes your uterus to contract (also the reason you might find yourself visiting the bathroom more during your period). Some women get a nasty bout of the runs right before going into labour and that’s perfectly normal, albeit unpleasant, says Wong.
What you can do about it
The good news is there are ways to slow things down when they’re moving just a little too, um, fast. The best line of defense is to treat diarrhea during pregnancy the same way you would outside of pregnancy: eliminate possible causes (if you think your vitamin or other medications are at fault, consider swapping them out) and problematic foods, “including dairy products, and anything with an abundance of sugar or caffeine, such as juices and carbonated drinks,” says Wong. Instead, fill up on foods that are known to be gentle on your digestive system, like applesauce, bananas, soups, vegetables like green beans, carrots or sweet potato, crackers and toast.
Hydration is uber important in pregnancy, too, since dehydration can both trigger and compound certain symptoms, like headaches, nausea, swelling, dizziness, and even preterm labour. Even if you’re in the throes of diarrhea, try to keep a bottle of water or a sports drink by your side.
If all else fails, speak with your doctor about taking an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication.
When is it serious?
Most cases of diarrhea during pregnancy are harmless, and will disappear in a matter of days. But if you find you’re glued to the toilet, and have been for more than two days, or if blood or puss, or a fever accompanies it, it’s time to call your healthcare practitioner. You should also see a doctor if you suspect food poisoning: listeriosis, an infection caused by eating food contaminated with listeria, can pass through the placenta and put your baby at risk.