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Is Diarrhea a Sign of Pregnancy?

written by: nanjowe • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 1/26/2010

When trying to get pregnant any small change the body undergoes may trigger questions. One such question is, is diarrhea a sign of pregnancy?

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    What Causes Diarrhea

    To understand if there is a relationship between pregnancy and diarrhea it helps to understand what causes diarrhea. Diarrhea occurs when normal stools become watery and frequent (more than eight times a day of watery stools). The normal process in the bowels is the absorption of water from the stools. The water is usually absorbed through the intestinal walls either actively (hormone or enzyme controlled) or passively.

    There are, however, times when the process is reversed and water is eliminated from the body into the gut. Since the process is controlled by hormones and other factors, the process can easily be reversed if there is change in the hormonal system. The types of hormones that trigger this change are hormones that relax or contract muscles. Once the muscles are relaxed the food moves slowly through the gut. This increases the water absorbtion. Contracting muscles lead to food passing through the gut quickly and hence, diarrhea.

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    Does Diarrhea Occur as a Result of Pregnancy

    If diarrhea occurs during early pregnancy it will probably not be related to the pregnancy. It is possibly caused by other causes. Pregnancy hormones normally work to slow down the bowels. This change allows for the maximum absorption of nutrients which could lead to constipation. The extra nutrients absorbed are needed to help nourish the growing fetus.

    Diarrhea can Result from Changes in Hormones. Right before the menstrual cycle there is an increased concentration of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help expel the excess uterine lining by uterine wall contractions. Prostaglandins also inadvertently soft the intestinal wall muscles relaxing them, decreasing their ability to transport water into the body. The result is diarrhea.

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    Early Pregnancy Symptoms

    Early pregnancy symptoms of pregnancy are different for woman to woman.

    Missed Period: The most common symptom that conception has occurred is a missed period. However, some women may experience break-through bleeding or spotting at the time of their anticipated regular period even while they are pregnant. This period may be lighter than normal. However, missing a period may also be caused by emotional or physical stress.

    Breast Tenderness: Sometimes breasts may feel tender, be painful, or appear swollen. There may also be a physical change in the appearance of the breasts.

    Nausea: Some women start feeling nauseated and may even vomit soon after conception occurs. This is sometimes coupled with an aversion to certain foods.

    Tiredness: Fatigue which is linked to rising progesterone levels is another early pregnancy symptom.

    Abdominal Bloating: Stomach feels enlarged and bloated.

    Other early symptoms include frequent urination, elevated basal temperature, and mood swings.

    The best way to confirm a pregnancy is to visit a physician who can diagnose the pregnancy by performing a physical exam, reviewing the patient’s history and by doing blood tests. Based on the results of the examination a physician can positively confirm a pregnancy. This takes out guess work out of the equation.

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