Diarrhea During Pregnancy
Diarrhea and Other SymptomsDiarrhea is not an illness; it is a symptom -- similar to the way fever is a symptom. Depending on the cause of diarrhea, other symptoms may or may not occur with it. Other symptoms that may accompany diarrhea include:
- Abdominal cramping ("stomach ache")
- Abdominal pain (or stomach pain)
- Muscle aches
- General sense of tiredness.
In pregnant women, diarrhea typically lasts anywhere from 1 to 10 days, depending on the cause. It can range from mild to severe.
Does Diarrhea Affect the Baby?Most viruses and bacteria that cause diarrhea do not have any impact on the baby because they stay within the digestive tract. The biggest concern for pregnant women with diarrhea is the risk of severe dehydration, which can affect the baby.
Preventing DehydrationMost cases of diarrhea will improve on their own. Therefore, treatment goals in pregnant women with diarrhea are usually focused on providing supportive care. Supportive care refers to treating symptoms, such as dehydration, that can occur as a result of diarrhea. Preventing dehydration is especially important for pregnant women, because severe dehydration can affect the baby.
Dehydration is the loss of fluids from the body. Important salts or minerals, known as electrolytes, can also be lost with the fluids. The symptoms of dehydration include:
- Excessive thirst
- Dry mouth
- Little or no urine (or dark yellow urine)
- Decreased tears
- Severe weakness or lethargy
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
Suggestions for Dealing With Diarrhea During PregnancyAny pregnant woman who experiences diarrhea should talk to her healthcare provider. There are some suggestions he or she may recommend that can help a pregnant woman reduce symptoms as her body fights the infection. Such suggestions may include the following:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids are the most effective treatment for preventing dehydration in pregnant women. By drinking fluids, such as oral rehydration fluids (ORF), juice, or water, pregnant women can reduce their chance of becoming dehydrated. Sports drinks do not replace the nutrients and minerals lost during this illness. Special fluids used for oral rehydration can be found in most pharmacies or grocery stores and can be purchased without a prescription.
- If diarrhea or vomiting is severe, you should visit your doctor. In severe cases (such as those requiring a visit to the emergency room or hospitalization) treatment may involve replacing body fluids directly through the veins using an intravenous (IV) line.
- Allow your gastrointestinal tract to settle by not eating for a few hours.
- Gradually reintroduce food, starting with bland, easy-to-digest food, like toast, broth, apples, bananas, and rice.
- Avoid dairy products and caffeine.
- Get plenty of rest.