Characterized by watery or loose and frequent bowel movements, diarrhea is a common complaint in pregnant females. There are a number of factors that can result in diarrhea in first trimester of pregnancy, majority of which are minor ailments and not a cause for concern. However, diarrhea accompanied by vomiting or nausea will need prompt treatment to prevent dehydration. Diarrhea associated with pain and fever or presence of mucus or blood in stools can indicate something serious and requires a visit to a doctor.
Causes of Diarrhea in First Trimester of Pregnancy
The first trimester of pregnancy is associated with production of large amounts of pregnancy hormones which can relax and slow down the gastrointestinal tract. This can be good for the fetus to absorb more nutrients that it needs to grow but bring an embarrassing result – diarrhea associated with bloating and constipation.
Changes in Diet
Pregnancy brings with itself a change in diet that includes eating more fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, along with extra water. While these dietary changes are great for both your health and your baby’s health, they may result in diarrhea, first trimester of pregnancy.
Intolerance to Lactose
Diarrhea during first trimester of pregnancy can also occur as a result of lactose intolerance which happens due to increased milk consumption by pregnant females. You can try eliminating milk from your diet for a few days to notice if there are any changes in the symptoms. However, make sure to take calcium from other sources during this period.
Taking Prenatal Vitamins
While iron present in the prenatal vitamins can result in constipation for some females, loose stools can result from other ingredients. Similar to milk intolerance mentioned above, stop taking vitamins for a few days to see if diarrhea goes away.
Pregnant females are more prone to get infected with stomach viruses; diarrhea is one of the common symptoms of such infections.
Sensitivities to Certain Foods
You may develop sensitivity to different foods during pregnancy. Food that has not caused any troubles before may now cause symptoms of bloating and diarrhea.
Treatment for Diarrhea in First Trimester of Pregnancy
Avoid Foods Causing Problem
Diarrhea can be aggravated by some foods. You should completely avoid the following foods: fried fatty foods, spices, red meat, carbonated and caffeinated drinks, dried fruits, dairy products and sugary foods such as chocolates and candies.
Follow CRAM and BRAT Diet
The BRAT diet includes bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. It is recommended by physicians to calm the digestive system. All the nutrients may not be provided by these foods; hence, according to new research the following should also be added: lean meats, vegetables such as cooked carrots, soups with rice, vegetables or noodles, starchy foods such as crackers, unsweetened cereals, and potatoes, yogurt.
You can also follow the CRAM diet which includes cereal, rice, apple sauce and milk. It is comparatively better than BRAT diet as it provides more protein.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids including water, broths and juices to replace the electrolytes that are lost. ORT (oral rehydration therapy) is one of the tested and most tried methods of controlling loose stools. In this therapy, water is given with good quantities of sugar and salt along with supplemental zinc for two weeks.
Keep a Check on Your Medicines
Diarrhea may occur as a side effect of some medicines. If this happens, you should consult your physician so that they may change the medicine or treat the diarrhea in first trimester in other ways. Moreover, you should not take any over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines without consulting your physician as it may worsen the condition.
Try the following home remedies to prevent dehydration and retain electrolytes and water in your body:
Drink lots of water, at least 1 liter every 2 hours and eat salty crackers as snacks in between.
Drink ginger tea. Boil some tea and ginger in water and allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes and then drink.
Add 3-4 tbsp. of honey in a glass of water and drink the mixture every day.
Make a mixture of lemon juice, ½ tbsp. of ginger powder and ¼ tbsp. of crushed black pepper and consume 2 times in a day.
Add extract of peppermint to ½ a cup of water and drink it 2-3 times a day.
You can also take psyllium husk as it also helps in reducing diarrhea.
When to Consult a Doctor
If your diarrhea does not get better within 2 days, then you should immediately visit a doctor. Moreover, if the diarrhea is associated with the below mentioned symptoms, you should also consult your physician immediately:
Severe stomach pain or cramping
Blood or mucus in stool
Severe pain in head
Temperature above 100 degrees F
Decreased urinary output
Increased heart beat
Ways to Prevent Diarrhea During First Trimester
The key to prevent diarrhea during first trimester of pregnancy is dietary modification. Avoid foods such as prunes, which are natural laxatives and spicy, fatty foods and dairy products. Spicy or fatty foods may be difficult to digest and may cause loose stools. Dairy products can result in diarrhea in lactose intolerant females. Such pregnant females should take other forms of calcium instead of dairy products.
Sugary drinks such as energy drinks or sodas should also be avoided by pregnant females as they may also disturb digestion. They can also cause excess weight gain during pregnancy. You should avoid drinking cokes, grape juice, and tea to prevent diarrhea during pregnancy. However, sports drinks can be a good choice as they are rich in electrolytes and they can help in rehydration. But make sure to choose the right sports drink after discussing with your physician as not all drinks have positive effects.