Diarrhoea in pregnancy – causes and when to worry

Being pregnant can result in a number of changes in your body and your digestive tract is no exception. Most women will experience constipation, but what happens when you end up dashing to the loo with a runny tummy?


What can cause this digestive upset?

Food aversions

If your body is feeling a little sensitive towards a certain food or food group, your digestive tract may be a little more sensitive. Try to avoid whatever is upsetting your tummy. Eat small regular meals, especially if the upset is accompanied by morning sickness.


For some, pregnancy supplements can not only make you feel nauseous, but can set off the runs if your system just doesn’t agree with them. If this is the case, avoid the supplements with the exception of plain folic acid. Instead, try to get your goodness from a variety of fresh fruit and veggies.

ALSO SEE: 8 top pregnancy nutrition tips from a dietician


Just as the fluctuations in pregnancy hormones can slow down your digestive system and result in constipation, for some women it can speed it up. Upset in the first trimester will most likely settle down as your hormone levels start to balance out.


It may be pregnancy related or just down to daily life, but stressors can cause some gastric upset especially in pregnant women. Try to relax and eliminate as much stress as you can from you day to day life.

Non-pregnancy related 

This can be from a dodgy meal or a viral or bacterial infection. If you have a sudden onset of the runs and feel generally unwell it is most likely not pregnancy related and needs medical attention.

When to worry?

As mentioned, some level of gastric upset is considered normal in pregnancy but it is advisable to seek medical attention if:

  • The diarrhoea persists and you are not able to keep much in
  • You have a temperature
  • You feel generally unwell
  • You have tummy cramps
  • You start to become dehydrated.

A sign of labour?

The uterus and the bowel are closely situated to each other, So, when the uterus gets irritable and starts contracting it can set off the bowel. In other words, an upset tummy can be an early sign of labor. It is nature’s way of clearing out the bowel ahead of pushing out a baby.

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