Diarrhoea in pregnancy

Eek! I've got the runs! Was it something I ate or can I put it down to my hormones?

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Not one of nature’s nicest preg presents, diarrhoea is unfortunately a common pregnancy symptom. Although a bout of the runs can happen at any time during your 9 months, it can be an early sign of pregnancy in your first few weeks – and frequently crops up again in your last few weeks before giving birth.

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Although it’s perfectly normal when pregnant, the trots might also might be a sign of food poisoning or a tummy bug. If you think it’s something you’ve eaten, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP.

How can I treat diarrhoea during pregnancy?

The most important thing to do when you have diarrhoea (pregnant or not), is to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Loads and loads of the stuff, to replace all those lost fluids. Oral rehydration salts such as Dioralyte are safe to take. If the diarrhoea continues for more than a couple of days, then you should speak to your GP or midwife.

“Diarrhoea is usually nothing to worry about, but the key is to avoid dehydration,” explains GP Dr Dawn Harper. “Fluids and rehydration sachets are the best way to deal with a simple stomach upset.”

Can I take Imodium when pregnant?

Whilst your first instinct might be to reach for the Imodium, hold your horses! Anti-diarrhoea medications, even over-the-counter ones, are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mums.

Can diarrhoea be a sign of labour?

Yes, diarrhoea is a classic sign of pre-labour. So if you’re in the last few weeks of pregnancy and you have diarrhoea, it may be a sign that your baby’s on the way. The bowel is stimulated as the cervix ripens, and diarrhoea is the body’s natural way to empty itself before labour actually begins. Pleasant? No. Amazing? Yes!

Mum XCakefaceX on our forum says:  “I’ll feel fine then all of a sudden have to run to the toilet which is unusual as i have been constipated this whole pregnancy up till now I also have backache and period pains but I don’t think it’s labour just my body gearing up which could still take a few weeks hope not though… 37+1.”

So what causes diarrhoea in pregnancy?

It’s most likely caused by one or a combination of things: hormones, something you’ve eaten or a viral infection.

According to the experts, diarrhoea in early pregnancy and during the first trimester can be caused by changes in hormones, changes in diet or a viral infection.

“I worked out that there were certain foods that would cause it more than others, says Happy Mrs S in our forum. “Chinese food went straight through me and anything that was quite rich did the same. It stopped at around 10 weeks I think. Make sure you drink lots to keep your fluids up and try to stick to quite plain, non greasy and not rich foods.”

As we know, diarrhoea during the third trimester can be your body’s way of flushing itself out in readiness for the big day – like a pre-birth enema.

Mum Shopaholic_Lea suffered from cramping and diarrhoea early during her second pregnancy. “I’m about 5 weeks pregnant and for the last week I’ve been really suffering with diarrhoea.

“It’s starting to get me down now cause if I go out and theres no toilets, I’m screwed! I get cramps when I need to go too and and have been going anything between 5-10 times a day. I feel food is going straight through me and yesterday didn’t eat much at all, and didn’t have much diarrhoea so felt it was easing off, but today I’ve had some toast for breakfast and its gone through me!! (sorry tmi) its 9 o’clock and I’ve been 3 times since 5:30!!!”

However, the most common causes of runny tummy in pregnancy relate to changes in diet, eating the wrong thing or getting food poisoning. Very rarely, this can lead to complications, so it’s good to know what’s safe to eat and what’s not recommended.

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What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?

Expert pregnancy nutritionist Dr Rana Conway recommends avoiding the following foods because they carry the risk of bacteria or viral infections such as listeria:

  • Avoid eating uncooked mould-ripened soft cheeses and soft blue-veined cheeses, including:
    • Brie and blue brie
    • Camembert
    • Chèvre (a type of goats’ cheese)
    • Danish blue
    • Gorgonzola
    • Roquefort

    However, these CAN be eaten if they are cooked as long as they are steaming hot all the way through.

  • Pate (the NHS website even advises against vegetable pates)
  • Liver
  • Unless you know the eggs have the British Lion stamp, avoid soft boiled and raw egg (so no mayonnaise on your chips or Hollandaise sauce).
  • Rare and raw meat (sorry, no bloody steak!)
  • Fish that contains high levels of mercury which includes shark, marlin and swordfish
  • Raw seafood (sushi is OK in the UK as it has been frozen first, but always check. Again, if in doubt, avoid).
  • Cured meats
  • Undercooked foods

Aside from these forbidden foods, you may want to take a look at simplifying your diet. Avoid dried fruits, fatty or spicy foods, and milk, especially if you’re lactose intolerant, all of which can unsettle your stomach.

Mum of one, Miximet, found that keeping to a relatively simple diet helped her diarrhoea. “I tried to stick to a ‘softer’ diet and it really helped. Plain foods, no fried stuff, little oil, no spices (nothing stronger than salt and pepper). I had lots of grilled meat and fish, rather than fried, and plain boiled or steamed veg. It sounds boring, but it made all the difference.”

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