Diarrhea during pregnancy is quite common – it is one of the many physical discomforts that expecting mothers face. Along with morning sickness, diarrhea is often at its worst in the early stages of pregnancy. Read on to learn what is normal (and what isn’t) and what you can do to minimize the effects of diarrhea during pregnancy.
Causes of Diarrhea in Early Pregnancy
While diarrhea can occur later in pregnancy, it’s much more common to experience diarrhea early on in a pregnancy and is generally due to one of the following factors.
Many major hormonal shifts are happening during pregnancy, and the body is adjusting. These shifts include an increase in hormones that slow down many systems in the body, including the digestive system which can cause constipation. Many women also experience hormones that speed up the digestive system, which can cause diarrhea. Some women experience one or the other, or alternate between diarrhea and constipation.
While some expecting moms never suffer from morning sickness, many do. The onset of morning sickness often causes sudden dietary shifts to occur. Whether you have aversions to foods you’d been eating previously or cravings for new ones, changes in diet cause the digestive tract to respond and make adjustments which can lead to diarrhea.
Some women also develop food sensitivities during pregnancy or begin eating a new food that they may have a sensitivity to. If you suspect this to be the case, keeping a food/symptoms diary can help you pinpoint trouble foods. Pay attention to symptoms such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea that might be connected to certain foods you’re eating.
Many women feel a heightened level of stress during the first trimester. Pregnancy is a major life transition that can cause stress levels to rise. Stress and anxiety have been shown to cause diarrhea in some people, likely due to stress hormones that trigger increased movement in the large intestines. If you’ve ever had the experience of needing to run to the bathroom before a public speaking event or another stressful situation, this likely isn’t news to you!
Women in early pregnancy can mitigate stress-related diarrhea by implementing relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or prenatal yoga. Anything that brings you a sense of calm will help to lower stress levels, which is beneficial for your growing baby and can also help avoid diarrhea.
Taking prenatal vitamins can be hugely beneficial, but some women have an adverse reaction to certain vitamins. If you feel that your diarrhea may be linked to a prenatal vitamin, discuss finding a different brand with your doctor. Some people react to certain ingredients included in vitamins and supplements, so it might take some experimentation to discover which works best for your body.
As with any bout of diarrhea, if yours is extreme and doesn’t clear up after 2-3 days, it’s best to see your doctor.