Women's Healthcare Topics

Is it Okay to take Medication for Diarrhea While Pregnant?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Diarrhea is Not a Sign of Pregnancy

If you have 3 or more runny or watery stools in a day you have diarrhea. Everyone has diarrhea at some point in their life, most of us have diarrhea 4 times a year.

Acute diarrhea is due to infections with bacteria and viruses. The acute diarrhea problems are self-limited and only last for a few days. Most cases of mild diarrhea are viral, whereas more severe acute diarrhea is usually bacteria related.

Chronic diarrhea is usually due to noninfectious etiologies. A host of disorders are associated with chronic diarrhea. They include; irritable bowel syndrome, Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, Ulcerative colitis, Malabsorption syndromes, and diarrhea following cholecystectomy.

Despite the popular belief that diarrhea is a sign of pregnancy, it is not, in fact it is just the opposite. Pregnant women frequently complain early in pregnancy of abdominal bloating with constipation and not diarrhea.

Treatments to Feel Better:

1. It is important to drink plenty of fluids that contain salt and sugar. The "sports drinks" are good choice as well as juice and broth.

Watch to see if you are drinking enough fluids by monitoring your urine color. It should be light yellow or almost clear if you are well hydrated.

2. Change your eating habits. Eat small frequent meals such as noodles, rice, bananas and crackers. Salty foods are the best.

3. Before taking any medication in pregnancy consult your physician first. There are many available medications to help, some without a prescription; Do not take any medication if you have a fever or bloody bowel movements. The most common anti-diarrhea treatments are listed:

4. Loperamide (Imodium) is available without a prescription. Loperamide is to be taken 2 pills initially, and then 1 pill wiith each diarrhea bowel movement. You should not take more than 8 pills in 24 hours.

5. Diphenoxylate (Lomotil) requires a prescription from your physician. Diphenoxylate, is a stronger medication than Loperamide, but it has more bothersome side effects. The usual dose is 2 pills four times a day and then reduced to 2 pills a day once diarrhea frequency is controlled. If there is no benefit or reduction in diarrhea within 48 hours, the medication should be discontinued.

6. Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate) should not be taken in pregnancy.

7. Yogurt contains live microorganisms called probiotics that can shorten the duration of some forms of diarrhea. The duration of diarrhea can be shorten by 30 hours if used when diarrhea starts.

Diarrhea in Early Pregnancy

Diarrhea isn't that common in the first trimester, but it does happen. When you have diarrhea in early pregnancy, it can come with uncomfortable cramping. You can accidentally mistake this sensation as a sign of a potential miscarriage. (Try not to worry. Although abdominal cramping can be a sign of a threatened miscarriage, you should only worry if you start to experience other troublesome symptoms, like vaginal bleeding or a dull, persistent ache in your lower back.)

Having diarrhea in early pregnancy can cause you to become dehydrated, which can make you feel weak and tired. Fatigue is already a common pregnancy symptom, so having diarrhea on top of this only makes the first trimester even more miserable.

In the first trimester, a mild case of diarrhea shouldn't worry you. It won't last long, and it will go away on its own. However, it's a good idea to call your doctor or healthcare provider if you're having severe diarrhea (passing three or more loose, watery stools a day), or you're passing stools that are bloody, contain mucus, or pure liquid.

Diarrhea in Late Pregnancy

In late pregnancy, you may experience mild diarrhea right before you go into labor. This is very common and indicates that delivery may be imminent. So, if you have diarrhea in the final weeks of your pregnancy, be on the lookout for other signs of labor.

Reduce your chances of getting diarrhea:

  • Washing your hands after cooking, using the bathroom, petting animals, changing diapers and throwing out the trash.

  • Avoid unpasteurized foods

  • Washing all fruits and vegetables

  • Set the refrigerator to 40ºF and the freezer around 0ºF

  • Cook meat and seafood well

  • Cook egg yolk until hard

  • Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards that come into contact with raw food


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