pregnant woman holding her belly

Diarrhea in pregnancy

By Nancy Kupka, PhD, RN Apr 13, 2021 • 3 min

Diarrhea is defined as passing loose or watery stools at least three times in a 24-hour period.

Diarrhea is a relatively common problem and probably not any more common in pregnant women than in the rest of the population. However, having diarrhea during pregnancy can put you in a high-risk situation.

Most cases of acute diarrhea are due to infections and resolve on their own without treatment. During pregnancy, diarrhea can also be due to hormonal or dietary changes, or taking vitamins, including folic acid. Whatever the cause, persistent diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous for both mother and baby. Although diarrhea can often be easily managed, if it progresses, it might require intravenous (IV) therapy or even hospitalization.

How do you manage diarrhea in pregnancy?

Whether you’re in early pregnancy (first trimester) or your second or third trimester, managing diarrhea involves supportive measures. These include staying hydrated, getting electrolytes through rehydration fluids and dietary changes. In some cases, a small amount of loperamide (Imodium) can help. Always check with your healthcare provider first, though, before you use rehydration fluids or any medications.

Be sure to call your provider if you have any signs of severe illness, including:

  • Passing more than six unformed, watery stools in a day
  • Blood or mucus in your stools
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Temperature of 101.3º F or greater

Is diarrhea a sign of pregnancy?

No, diarrhea is not a sign of pregnancy, but it can occur at any time during pregnancy. Diarrhea is not a sign of labor either, although it can accompany the cramps that come with labor. Recognizing and managing diarrhea early is key to the safety of mother and baby. Contact your healthcare provider if you have signs of severe diarrhea or any symptoms that concern you.

Published April 2021.