Is Diarrhea an Early Sign or Symptom of Pregnancy? Ways to Tell

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Written by Shandra Williams

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Thinking or hoping that you’re pregnant can make you feel all kinds of emotions, including excitement, joy, nervousness, dread, anxiety, happiness, anticipation, or outright fear.

And whether you want to be pregnant or not, if you think you might be, it can seem like everything out of the ordinary is a sign that you are. What about diarrhea; is that an early sign of pregnancy?

Diarrhea isn’t a reliable early sign of pregnancy or implantation. Firstly, there are numerous reasons a woman could have diarrhea, most of which have nothing to do with pregnancy. Also, by the time hormonal and diet changes cause diarrhea in expectant moms, most women already know they’re pregnant.

This article will further explain why you shouldn’t read too much into diarrhea as it relates to pregnancy. It will also touch on a few more diarrhea-related topics – fun, right? While reading about diarrhea may not be at the top of your to-do list today, there is a lot of great information here, so keep reading to find out more.

Is Diarrhea a Sign of Pregnancy?

Many women have heard and believe that diarrhea is an early sign of pregnancy in the first week, for example, and several Mommy Blogs out there reinforce this idea. Unfortunately, it just isn’t the case. 

woman in the toilet experiencing diarrhea

Even though pregnant women may have diarrhea in their first trimesters, diarrhea is not a typical sign of pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, you may experience diarrhea from time to time – even up until the third trimester. However, you shouldn’t assume a random bout of diarrhea means you’re pregnant.

The easiest way to explain it is this: Diarrhea may be a pregnancy symptom, but it’s too common of an ailment to be considered a pregnancy sign

That’s why there are no reputable websites or medical journals that list diarrhea among the common or even the less common signs of pregnancy (sources: My Cleveland Clinic, National Health Service UK, & University of Pittsburgh Medical Center)

The following is a list of reasons someone may have diarrhea: 

  • Food allergies
  • Food poisoning
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Increased water intake
  • Numerous diseases and illnesses
  • Cancer
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Reactions to certain medications
  • Bacterial infection
  • Running (source: WebMD)

And as long as that list is, it’s by no means exhaustive. If diarrhea rarely means you’re pregnant, why do so many women think it’s a reliable sign of pregnancy? 

As I mentioned above, the many internet sites that say it is don’t help the situation. However, some women do experience a dramatic change in their bathroom habits during their first trimesters.

Pregnancy releases all kinds of new hormones into your body. These hormonal changes may cause a slowing down or speeding up of your digestive system. The former usually leads to constipation, while the latter often causes diarrhea (source: Healthline). If you’re also constipated and wonder if that’s a pregnancy sign, too – you can read our article on that here.

Additionally, once you find out you’re pregnant, you’ll likely start taking prenatal vitamins and adjust your diet accordingly, both of which can also cause diarrhea. You may also develop new food sensitivities due to your changing pregnancy hormones. That, too, can wreak havoc on your GI tract. 

Because so many women experience these changes and then have diarrhea, people have started associating first-trimester diarrhea with early pregnancy over the years. Then, it went from a symptom of early pregnancy – which it often is – to a sign of early pregnancy – which it is not.

Is Diarrhea a Sign of Implantation?

Diarrhea isn’t a sign of pregnancy implantation. Some women may experience it super early – even right after implantation – but it’s not a reliable sign because it’s such a common occurrence. More common implantation symptoms include mood swings, spotting, breast tenderness, and frequent urination.

Other early signs of implantation (and pregnancy) include:

Again, just as is the case with pregnancy, diarrhea may occur after implantation, but it’s not a reliable sign.

woman with diarrhea sitting on a toilet bowl

How to Tell if your Diarrhea is Pregnancy or Your Period

For many women, diarrhea often accompanies their periods. For others, it’s not a common occurrence with their periods, but it will happen from time to time. That’s just one more reason that you can’t assume diarrhea means you’re pregnant. 

According to Healthline, menstruation-related diarrhea likely happens because of the increase in prostaglandins associated with most women’s periods (source: Healthline).

So how do you know if your diarrhea is pregnancy-related or period-related? Well, if your diarrhea comes along with other common PMS symptoms like abdominal cramping, bloating, insomnia, or unexpected depression or sadness, it’s probably period-related. 

If your diarrhea comes with sore breasts, nipple discoloration, or morning sickness, it’s probably pregnancy-related. 

Unfortunately, that’s not even a surefire way to tell because many of the symptoms of PMS mimic the signs of pregnancy. So until you start your period or get a positive pregnancy test result, you can’t really know for sure.

Can Diarrhea Be a Sign of an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Diarrhea can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. However, on its own, it’s not a strong enough indicator. If you miss a regular period and experience vaginal bleeding, stomach cramping, and shoulder tip pain, you may have an ectopic pregnancy and should speak to your doctor.

Shoulder tip pain is one of the most unusual symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. If you’re experiencing it and also have diarrhea or another symptom mentioned above, you might want to see a doctor (source: National Health Service UK).

Shoulder tip pain is a strange pain that occurs at the end of your shoulder, where your arm begins. According to the National Health Service, it can mean you have an ectopic pregnancy causing internal bleeding. You should get it checked out right away. 

Other studies, doctors, and reputable resources back up this fact, explaining that the signs of an ectopic pregnancy can mirror the symptoms of a GI problem, with diarrhea, gas, bloating, cramping, and rectal pain all being potential signs (sources: Embry Women’s Health & Pregnancy Birth & Baby).

woman with diarrhea using a toilet

Diarrhea Combined with Other Symptoms: Am I Pregnant?

We’ve already established that diarrhea by itself isn’t enough to mean – or even be a reliable indicator – that you’re pregnant. But what about diarrhea accompanied by other symptoms, such as abdominal cramps, constipation, or stomach bug? Could those be signs of pregnancy? 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common pairings with diarrhea and other ailments: 

  • Diarrhea and Constipation: Although you may experience both diarrhea and constipation throughout your pregnancy, having them simultaneously isn’t a sign of pregnancy. Instead, it could mean that you have a particular form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) known as IBS-M (source: WebMD). You can read more about constipation as a sign of pregnancy here.
  • Diarrhea and Dizziness: Diarrhea and dizziness aren’t usually signs of pregnancy either. Instead, you could be dehydrated or have infectious diarrhea or food poisoning. IBS is also possible with these symptoms (source: Medical News Today).
  • Diarrhea and Cramps: Diarrhea and stomach cramps could potentially be a sign of pregnancy, as those two things go hand-in-hand when you’re pregnant. However, like diarrhea alone, there are plenty of other reasons for you to be experiencing these symptoms.

    These include multiple GI problems (food allergies, food poisoning, bacterial infection, etc.), severe dehydration, or alcohol poisoning. They may also be due to PMS.
  • Diarrhea and Frequent Urination: Together, these two symptoms could indicate IBS, food poisoning, a urinary tract infection, or a stomach virus. However, of all the options on this list, this one is the most likely to happen when you’re pregnant. That doesn’t mean you are pregnant if you’re experiencing these symptoms, but you might want to take a test.
  • Diarrhea and Gas/Stomach Pain or Stomach Cramps: Almost anything that can cause diarrhea can also cause gas and tummy pain. In fact, in most cases, diarrhea and gas/stomach pain go hand-in-hand. If these are your only symptoms, it’s much more likely that you have a GI issue going on than pregnancy.
  • Diarrhea and Food Cravings: Like diarrhea and frequent urination, diarrhea and food cravings could indicate that you’re pregnant. If you’ve been experiencing diarrhea and unusual cravings, perhaps take a pregnancy test, just to be sure.

If the only pregnancy symptom you’ve had lately is diarrhea, you probably aren’t pregnant. However, pregnancy is a possibility if you’re experiencing diarrhea along with other common symptoms of pregnancy.

Are you having other symptoms? Check out our articles covering many early pregnancy signs.

What to Do if Your Diarrhea Turns out to be a Sign of Pregnancy

If you find out that indeed, your diarrhea was an early sign of pregnancy and you’ve had it confirmed by your doctor or a test, it’s crucial to exercise caution when considering over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat it.

Some OTC drugs can have adverse effects on a developing fetus. For example, while loperamide (often known as Imodium) is generally considered safe in pregnancy when used in moderation, other drugs may not be.

It’s always recommended to read the label carefully and, if in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional or pharmacist before taking any medication. As a general rule, during the early stages of pregnancy, it’s best to minimize medication intake unless it’s deemed necessary by a healthcare expert.

Hopefully, this article has given you enough information to decide whether you need to take the next steps in a potential pregnancy journey.