Is It Dangerous to Get Gastroenteritis When Pregnant?

By (embryologist) and (embryologist).
Last Update: 01/31/2024

Gastroenteritis is a gastrointestinal infection caused mainly by ingestion of spoiled food or by a virus that causes inflammation of the stomach. It is easy to confuse gastroenteritis with some of the symptoms common during the first month of pregnancy such as nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain.

Gastroenteritis need not be a serious complication during this period of gestation. Some specialists indicate that common gastroenteritis does not pose a risk to the fetus unless there is a high fever or signs of dehydration.

What are the causes of diarrhea in pregnancy?

On most occasions, regardless of whether pregnancy is present or not, the main reason for gastroenteritis is a viral infection by rotavirus, norovirus and enterovirus. However, gastroenteritis could also be caused by infection with Echerichia coli bacteria.

However, viral and bacterial infections are not the only cause of diarrhea in pregnant women. There are women who suffer gastroenteritis throughout gestation due to:

  • Hormonal changes typical of pregnancy.
  • Increased consumption of fiber-rich foods.
  • Increase in the size of the uterus that presses on the stomach and causes problems in digestion and absorption of food.
  • Use of certain vitamin complexes.

In addition to all this, if the pregnant woman has a bad digestion it can also cause diarrhea or even when she is only one month away from delivery.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis in pregnancy

The clinical manifestations of a gastrointestinal infection are quite evident. Some of them are listed below:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Fever.

Gastroenteritis in the gestational period usually lasts between 24 and 72 hours. Diarrhea should not be allowed to last longer due to the danger of dehydration. Symptoms of severe gastroenteritis may include high fever, signs of dehydration, blood or mucus in the stool and/or no improvement within 48 hours.

When gastroenteritis becomes severe, it can have negative consequences for the fetus, such as low birth weight or prematurity. Given this situation, it is advisable to see a doctor so that he/she can establish the best treatment option for gastroenteritis as soon as possible.

Treatment for diarrhea in pregnant women

The main advice for preventing gastroenteritis is to wash hands frequently. If, nevertheless, the woman suffers from gastroenteritis, the ideal would be to follow a diet without solid food during the first day. From this point on, the woman could take baked apple, boiled rice or any other astringent food, but in small quantities.

Other recommendations for the treatment of gastroenteritis in pregnant women would be the following:

  • Relative rest
  • Drink small sips of water frequently to avoid dehydration.
  • Do not self-medicate, since it will be the doctor who will indicate if treatment is necessary.
  • Adequate diet, avoiding fatty, acidic and dairy foods.

If symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea or high fever continue for more than two days, it is best to see a specialist.

FAQs from users

Are diarrhea and nausea a symptom of labor onset?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Before labor begins, the pregnant woman will be in a stage known as the prodromal or latent phase of labor. This means that the pregnant woman will notice some symptoms that are indicative that labor is about to begin.

Thus, there are women who suffer from diarrhea, cramps and nausea before giving birth. This is due to the action of prostaglandins. In addition, as the digestive tract empties, uterine contractions are more effective.

Is diarrhea a symptom of ectopic pregnancy?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

It does not have to be. An ectopic or extrauterine pregnancy is one in which the implantation of the embryo occurs outside the uterus, either in the fallopian tubes, in the abdominal cavity or in any other location.

Diarrhea is one of the symptoms that a woman may have if she suffers an ectopic pregnancy, but she will also present nausea, abdominal pain.... In addition, diarrhea can also be the consequence of an infection, food poisoning, an adverse effect of a vitamin complex, among others. Therefore, if the woman suffers from diarrhea, it does not necessarily mean that she has an ectopic pregnancy.

What home remedies to follow for gastroenteritis in pregnancy?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Pregnant women who suffer an episode of gastroenteritis should not eat high-fat foods. It is advisable to follow an easy-to-digest diet that includes cooked, grilled or steamed foods. In addition, it is advisable to eat fruits such as apples or pears.

Taking infusions of chamomile, ginger or salicaria can also help to soothe the symptoms of gastroenteritis in pregnant women.

Does gastroenteritis during pregnancy affect the baby's development?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

In principle, no. However, it is important to pay attention to all symptoms and consult a doctor. In addition, dehydration should be avoided, as this loss of water and mineral salts will also affect the baby.

Suggested for you

Although gastroenteritis should not be a serious complication during pregnancy, there are other problems that can be. Therefore, we recommend that you read the following article: What are the most common pregnancy complications?

In addition, a tip to avoid gastroenteritis is to take care of hand and food hygiene. In this sense, we invite you to visit this link: Health in pregnancy: nutrition, care and possible problems.

We make a great effort to provide you with the highest quality information.

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E S Bonapace Jr, R S Fisher. Constipation and diarrhea in pregnancy. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 1998 Mar;27(1):197-211 (View)

Roberta Amadori, Viviana Stampini, Rachele Rapetti, Mario Pirisi, Alessandro Vigone, Daniela Surico. Eosinophilic gastroenteritis in pregnancy: A review of the literature. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2020 May:248:102-105 (View)

Stacy B Menees, Anthony Lembo, Aline Charabaty. Fecal Incontinence and Diarrhea During Pregnancy. Am J Gastroenterol. 2022 Oct 1;117(10S):26-32. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001964 (View)

FAQs from users: 'Are diarrhea and nausea a symptom of labor onset?', 'Is diarrhea a symptom of ectopic pregnancy?', 'What home remedies to follow for gastroenteritis in pregnancy?' and 'Does gastroenteritis during pregnancy affect the baby's development?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
 Neus Ferrando Gilabert
Neus Ferrando Gilabert
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (UV). Postgraduate Course in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH). Experience managing Embryology and Andrology Labs at Centro Médico Manzanera (Logroño, Spain). More information about Neus Ferrando Gilabert

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