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Is it normal to have diarrhea during pregnancy?
It isn't common to have diarrhea during pregnancy. (Pregnant women are much more likely to have constipation rather than loose stools.) But some women report having mild diarrhea in late pregnancy just before they go into labor, and if you're less than 37 weeks along, diarrhea can be a sign of preterm labor.
What causes diarrhea during pregnancy?
Just like when you're not pregnant, you can get diarrhea from an illness or from something you ate. Causes of diarrhea during pregnancy include:
- A stomach virus or food poisoning, such as listeriosis
- Certain antibiotics or antacids
- Sugar-free candies
- Dairy products (if you're lactose-intolerant)
- Digestive problems from irritable bowel syndrome or an inflammatory bowel disease
Can diarrhea during pregnancy be a sign of something serious?
Yes, but it's very uncommon. If you haven't had a bowel movement in several days then suddenly develop watery diarrhea, you might have fecal impaction (also called an intestinal obstruction).
In this rare condition, hardened, dry stool blocks the large bowel. Watery stool sometimes leaks around it, showing up as diarrhea.
If you have fecal impaction, you'll probably have other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, and a bloated (or distended) belly. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you develop these signs.
What should I do if I have a stomach virus or food poisoning?
If you've picked up a stomach virus or a mild case of food poisoning, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, avoid dairy, and stick to easily digestible foods like bananas, rice, soup, or toast. Don't eat fatty foods until you're feeling better if diarrhea is severe. You should feel better in 24 hours or less.
Call your provider to let her know about your symptoms and ask if it's safe to take any over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications.
When should I call my healthcare provider about diarrhea during pregnancy?
Call your provider if you have diarrhea that lasts longer than a day or includes any of these symptoms:
- Stomach pain
- Explosive diarrhea
- Diarrhea with blood or mucus
- Dry mouth, dizziness, or lightheadedness (signs of dehydration)
Contact your provider right away if you have diarrhea and also feel your baby moving less often or vigorously than usual or have signs of preterm labor such as:
- Regular or frequent contractions
- More vaginal discharge, or discharge that's watery, bloody, or mucus-like
- Pressure or pain in your pelvis or lower stomach that is persistent or gets worse