Stomach Bug While Pregnant: What to Know

Stomach Bug While Pregnant: What to Know

Pregnancy and the digestive system aren’t always the best of friends.

Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting can all be part of the pregnancy package.

Add having a stomach bug while pregnant, and you can feel like you’ve been dealt a bad hand.

When you’re pregnant, your immune system goes through a bunch of changes, which can make you more susceptible to illness. [1]

So if you’ve been wondering why you seem to be getting sick more often than normal, that could be it.

Stomach bugs during pregnancy are, unfortunately, very common.

In fact, according to this study, they happen in about a third of pregnancies. [2]

Fun times.

The good news is that catching a mild bug is not likely to do much harm, and you’ll probably be back to doing more standing than sitting in the near future.

That being said, it’s still really important to look after yourself at this time (and always) and to consult your doctor so that you can get your symptoms checked out.

More serious gastrointestinal problems might require medical treatment so it’s good to keep your doctor in the loop from the get-go.

We’ll take you through the details.

In this article: 📝

  • What does a stomach bug feel like when pregnant?
  • How long does a stomach bug last while pregnant?
  • Can having a stomach bug while pregnant hurt the baby?
  • How can I prevent others from getting my stomach bug?
  • How do you get rid of the stomach flu when pregnant?

What does a stomach bug feel like when pregnant?

The short answer?

No fun.

Particularly if you’re already feeling other pregnancy symptoms, this can really feel a bit much.

Embryologist Navya Muralidhar digs deeper: “Stomach bug, also known as gastroenteritis, can be of two types: viral and bacterial.
On the bacterial side, gastroenteritis is often caused by food poisoning due to the bacterial salmonella.
On the virus end, it is most commonly caused by rotavirus and norovirus.” [3,4]

But whatever the source, it can make you feel really awful.

And, when you’re pregnant, perhaps even worse.

The symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache

This can all put you more at risk for dehydration, which can be dangerous in pregnancy.

These are spread from person to person when they come into contact with contaminated surfaces, food, or even the air around them.

(Psst. The top tips we learned during the pandemic can really help here — handwashing being top of the list.

And try to avoid touching your face with dirty hands.)

But, in the case of things like food poisoning, stomach bugs which are the result of bad bacteria such as salmonella can be a tad bit dangerous.

(We’ll take you through the details below.)

If you’re unable to keep anything down — whether it’s because of stomach flu or food poisoning — it’s really important to get medical attention.

How long does a stomach bug last while pregnant?

According to Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, stomach flu doesn’t tend to last longer than a week. [5]

But in some cases, it can turn into a more serious illness.

That’s why it’s a good idea to let your doctor know as soon as you get sick so that they can travel this journey with you and get to the root cause.

Can having a stomach bug while pregnant hurt the baby?

While it’s important to stay as healthy as you can while you’re pregnant, having a stomach bug shouldn’t harm your baby.

Some studies showed that there appears to be a correlation between stomach flu and shorter pregnancies — but that the baby’s health did not appear to be affected negatively. [2]

Something to be on the lookout for, though, is dehydration.

If you’re unable to keep food down and liquid in, dehydration becomes more of a risk.

During pregnancy, dehydration can lead to low levels of amniotic fluid, which can be dangerous for your baby and their development. [6]

It may also impact your developing breast milk.

That’s why keeping your doctor up to date with your condition is important, so that you get the treatment you need in time.

And if you contract food poisoning, it’s especially crucial to talk to your doctor.

Bacteria like listeria can make you seriously ill and pose a threat to your baby.

As the American Pregnancy Association tells us, it can lead to premature birth, pregnancy loss, and stillbirth. [7]

While that might sound really scary, there is treatment available in the form of antibiotics.

You can also help minimize the risk by avoiding high-risk foods — deli meats, soft cheese, and pâtes are on the no-go list.

Coming into contact with E. coli and salmonella, as well as the parasite toxoplasma gondii, can also make you sick, and you may need treatment.

🤢 Get the deets: What to Know About Food Poisoning While Pregnant

How can I prevent others from getting my stomach bug?

A short-lived tummy bug should subside sooner, but since they can spread easily and quickly, here are some tips from Navya Muralidhar on what you can do to protect your family and others:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Avoid sharing things such as cutlery, crockery and clothes
  • If possible, avoid preparing food until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped
  • Wash any soiled clothing or linen separately from other clothes
  • Regularly clean commonly shared surfaces such as bathroom knobs, taps, etc.

How do you get rid of the stomach flu when pregnant?

Next up: how to get rid of stomach bug while pregnant.

So, this all depends on what’s causing it.

That’s why it’s important to check in with your healthcare provider to ensure that the treatment fits the cause.

If it’s a bacterial infection, you’ll likely need an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor.

If you have a mild case of gastroenteritis, ask your doctor about medication options.

While Pepto is not such a great option while you’re pregnant, other medications, like Immodium, might be suitable. [8]

TUMS may also be appropriate when it comes to managing heartburn and indigestion.

Other ideas?

  • Keep hydrated — water and herbal teas for the win.
  • Get your electrolytes up with specially formulated drinks.
  • Rest up — full permission to stay in bed.
  • Eat bland — it’s best to avoid high-fat foods and dairy products. A diet of bananas, toast, soup, and rice should do it. Yum!

Other remedies, like activated charcoal for stomach bugs while pregnant, should be taken only if the benefits outweigh the risks, as there’s not enough evidence to prove their safety yet.

Again, the best thing to do is check in with your doctor to see if these are a good idea for you.

Getting a stomach bug while pregnant is not ideal.

But it’s common.

And if it’s mild, it should be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.

That being said, some more serious infections can put you and your baby at risk, so it’s always best to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

If you would like support with this or any other pregnancy-related issue, Peanut is here for you.

You don’t have to do this alone.

Get well soon! ❤️


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