Pregnancy Home > Diarrhea During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman is generally more likely to experience constipation than diarrhea (although many women do get diarrhea at the onset of labor). The infections that most often cause diarrhea during pregnancy do not normally present a threat to the baby; however, the dehydration that can develop with diarrhea can harm the baby. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine. If your diarrhea is severe, contact your healthcare provider.

An Overview of Diarrhea During Pregnancy

There are many intestinal problems that a woman gets to look forward to during pregnancy. Diarrhea tends to be one of the least common of these. Diarrhea is defined as loose, watery, unformed stools occurring more than three times in one day. It is not the occasional loose stool or the frequent passing of formed stools.
There are a couple of reasons why diarrhea is not very common during pregnancy. The first is that prenatal vitamins taken during pregnancy tend to constipate a woman. The second reason is that as pregnancy progresses, the intestines tend to slow down, which also results in constipation.
Yet pregnant women are just as susceptible to becoming infected with many of the viruses and bacteria that can cause diarrhea as women who are not pregnant.

Causes of Pregnancy-Related Diarrhea

Just as with women who are not pregnant, there are many possible causes of diarrhea in pregnant women. Probably the most common cause is an infection with a virus that causes stomach flu (see Types of Stomach Flu Viruses). Technically, the term "stomach flu" is not correct. The so-called stomach flu is not caused by the influenza virus, nor does it infect the stomach. Instead, stomach flu viruses infect the small intestine.
Other possible causes of diarrhea during pregnancy include bacteria (such as Escherichia coli), parasites (such as Giardia), medications, or other medical conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease).
Many women also experience diarrhea at the onset of labor (see Signs of Labor).
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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