Stomach flu is an infection of the intestinal lining that’s fairly common among pregnant women – along with a whole host of other infections and problems we go through during pregnancy as well.
It’s surely a magical experience and all, knowing that you’ll soon be giving birth to a part of you – but it’s a darn tiring whirlwind with everything it puts us through as well!
Read on to learn all you need to know about stomach bugs (also known as viral gastroenteritis) during pregnancy.
Why Do Women Get Stomach Bugs During Pregnancy?
In most cases, stomach bugs are caused by viruses or harmful bacteria we get exposed to, most often being food related (food that’s not prepared in clean environments or just not cooked thoroughly enough).
The causes of getting stomach bugs during pregnancy are not much different than those that lead to getting stomach bugs when not pregnant.
Don’t forget that your immune system is somewhat weaker during pregnancy than it usually is when you’re not pregnant, so it’s only normal that the chances of you catching a virus like this (and other diseases as well) are higher than usual.
How Can I Tell If I’m Feeling Symptoms Of Pregnancy Or A Stomach Flu?
It’s quite easy to think you’re experiencing symptoms of a stomach flu while in reality, you’re just experiencing pregnancy related symptoms.
The things you would go through during either are very similar, so it’s easy to confuse one for the other, especially considering all the hormonal changes your body goes through during pregnancy.
The following list discusses some of the most common symptoms you would notice when down with a stomach flu1.
- Decreased appetite
- Increased and constant thirst
- Loose stool and watery diarrhea. (If blood is apparent with the diarrhea, it could be something more serious than stomach flu).
- Mild fever
- Dry mouth
- Stomach cramps
- Excessive and unusual sweating
As you’ve surely noticed by now, many of these symptoms are ones you’d experience throughout your pregnancy, whether early on or towards the later stages.
For example, ask any woman who’s experienced the two and she’ll tell you that stomach flu cramps feel very similar to contractions you get early on during pregnancy.
Also, it’s a bit difficult to differentiate between a gastrointestinal bug and good ol’ morning sickness, especially early on in your pregnancy – but nausea and vomiting from these two conditions are not the same.
If you’re only experiencing nausea and vomiting throughout the day, then it’s likely to just be morning sickness. Unlike what its name sounds like, morning sickness does not only occur during the morning – a pregnant woman could feel it anytime of the day.
If, on the other hand, you experience other symptoms from the list mentioned above along with nausea and vomiting, then it’s more likely to be a stomach bug than morning sickness.
Also, a stomach flu would only usually last a couple of days at most, while morning sickness could last until late into your second trimester.
A Quick Note About Food Poisoning
Before you go digging further into this to determine whether it’s just one of those things you go through and experience during pregnancy or if it’s really a stomach virus that you have, rule out food poisoning first.
The symptoms of food poisoning and having a stomach bug are very similar, so it’s also quite easy to mix those two conditions up as well.
If you’re unable to determine which is which, your doctor will easily be able to do so.
Will A Stomach Virus Harm My Unborn Baby?
Before even thinking about how they can make the discomfort go away and make themselves feel better, the first thing most moms-to-be will be concerned with is whether or not this stomach virus could somehow pass on to little unborn baby inside them and cause them any harm as a result.
Rest assured though, as your body is more than prepared to protect your baby from harm’s way during pregnancy. The chances of your baby being affected by your tummy bug are very low, almost negligible.
A stomach flu cannot directly transmit to the baby you’re pregnant with, nor will it directly affect them in any way. It can, however, affect the baby you’re pregnant with if your body gets dehydrated and you don’t take proper care of yourself to get re-hydrated2.
What Should I Do When I Get A Stomach Virus While Pregnant?
Rather than worrying about anything bad happening to your baby because of the stomach bug you have when you’re still pregnant with them, you should be much more worried about something bad happening to you – especially if you don’t take proper care of yourself and allow it to develop into something much more dangerous than it is right now.
The following list discusses some of the most important stuff you should keep in mind (and do) when you have a bug.
Staying properly hydrated is essential for you to get better. If you don’t give your body the water and fluids it needs and leave it dehydrated, you’re not going to get better anytime soon – your situation will rather likely become worse.
Drinking enough water and fluids is especially important if you’re having a difficult time keeping them down and not losing them to vomit or frequent bouts of diarrhea, not to mention the fluids you’re losing through excessive sweating.
If you find it hard to keep the water down without vomiting, wait for an hour after throwing up and sip a teaspoon of water once every 5 to 10 minutes or so3.
If you notice you’re just able to keep that amount and frequency of water down without being in much discomfort and throwing it up again, then stick with it.
If you find it’s way too little and you can go higher without throwing it all up again, then gradually increase the frequency or amount of fluids you’re taking in.
You can tell that it’s not going well and your body is dehydrated when you’re urinating infrequently and your pee is dark in color.
When you’re properly hydrated, you’ll be in and out of the bathroom urinating fairly frequently and your pee will be light yellow.
Water is obviously the best fluid you could be taking during this time, but you could also give a few other stuff a try, such as warm soup, tea (make sure it’s caffeine free, though) with a little bit of ginger, or some warm water mixed with lemon.
A glass of warm water mixed with lemon will also help eliminate gas and bloating if you have those as well.
Stay away from caffeinated beverages at this time, such as coffee and strong black tea – they’ll only make your condition worse.
Also stay away from any alcoholic beverages (despite the temptations), alcoholic beverages are diuretic and can lead to your body being more dehydrated than it already is.
Despite what you may often be advised to do, don’t drink fruit juices (yes, even if it’s natural fruit juice and not artificial) – this is not the proper kind of hydration your body needs at this time.
And whatever you do, do NOT try to make up for the fluids lost from your body by drinking soda.
Sometimes your physician might also suggest that you drink a re-hydration fluid such as Pedialyte to speed things up a bit.
Always remember that dehydration when pregnant is two times as bad as it is when you’re not pregnant – your body is short on water at a time you should be properly drinking for two.
When you’re dehydrated, your blood flow and circulation takes a hit, which translates to inefficient supply of oxygen and nutrients to your fetus.
2) Well Deserved Rest
Giving your body the rest it very well deserves during this period of time is also essential. Your energy levels will be at an unusual low, so it’s only common sense that you should get plenty of rest to stack back up on energy again.
Your body needs time to properly recover, so give it the time it needs and don’t try to rush things in the hopes for a faster recovery – it doesn’t work like that.
3) Dietary Changes
Anything you usually eat that could possibly agitate your stomach – do away with it.
A good example is spicy foods. Focus on eating the stuff that has stomach soothing properties, such as the ever-popular BRAT diet4 (bananas, white rice, applesauce and white bread toast) as well as potatoes.
Keeping it bland during this time is the best thing you could do because bland food is the easiest to digest.
Only consume carbohydrates that are easy to digest, which means you should stay away from the fibrous carbohydrates during this time.
Fiber is hard on the stomach and difficult to digest. So opt for white rice instead of brown rice, white bread toast instead of whole wheat toast, etc ..
Also try to avoid salty foods during this time, because those will only make you feel thirstier and cause you to drink an excessive amount of water that could put your stomach at unease – more than it already is.
Experts do recommend that you take salt from other sources, though, such as oral re-hydration salts.
Avoid eating any fatty foods during this time as well, so that means no junk food or fast food at all.
High fat content is difficult for your digestive system to process, and now is not the time for you to be making things challenging for your digestive system.
Only eat solids or semi-solids when you feel you’re able to, because forcing yourself to eat will only increase your nausea and cause you to throw it back up again.
In most cases, you won’t have to take any medicine to treat a stomach bug during pregnancy – it’s rarely ever something that serious.
You can almost always take proper care of yourself with home remedies when you have a stomach flu.
If for any reason you do plan on taking medication for treatment purposes, this should absolutely only be done under the supervision and guidance of your doctor, even if you’re planning to take over the counter medication that doesn’t need a prescription.
Not all medication out there is pregnancy friendly, and even if the one you plan on taking is, you could easily get the dosage part wrong and cause yourself (and the baby inside you) harm.
Your doctor is the most competent person to advise you whether or not your stomach flu case requires medication, what kind of medication if so, how much of it you should be taking, and for how long.
Chances are you’ve probably put ginger to good use in your pregnancy before, especially early on and during your first trimester. (If this is your first time ever getting pregnant, then you’ll surely want to if you’re not allergic to it!).
Ginger is as natural as it gets, it’s hard to find a more natural digestive aid and nausea remedy that’s so effective than this.
Ginger chews found at local health food stores are an all time favorite among mothers-to-be, thanks to their stomach calming effects and ability to keep nausea and vomiting at bay.
If you’re not the biggest fan out there of ginger chews for whatever reason, then drinking some home made brewed ginger tea is perfectly fine and gets the job done just as well.
It’s important that you do not add any natural sugar or artificial sweetener to the ginger tea, though – your stomach is much better off without any of that stuff at this time.
Peppermint is also one of the go-to ingredients you’ll find yourself using a lot throughout your pregnancy, one that has similar stomach soothing properties that ginger contains. Try putting together a warm cup of peppermint tea and see if that helps.
If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which is also common during pregnancy, you can also expect peppermint to help ease that condition just as well.
Probiotics are exceptionally important for our digestive health in normal circumstances, so you can only imagine how much more important they are in abnormal circumstances such as when you have a stomach bug.
Stomach viruses can kill a large portion of the good bacteria in your gut, sometimes around an astonishing 75% of them6.
This not only makes some of the digestive-related symptoms you go through during this time worse off, it also further weakens much of your immune system (which is already weaker than usual during pregnancy).
So, and to make up for this loss of beneficial bacteria in your gut, eating food that’s easy on the stomach and rich in probiotics at the same time is a great idea.
A popular choice that has stood the test of time and proven its worth during these troubled times is natural yogurt. Stay away from the flavored version that have all sorts of additives and artificial sweeteners added to them, they’ll do your stomach more harm than good.
Not only is it important for you to take in probiotics throughout the entire time you’re ill, probiotic intake is also important after your body has fully recovered.
Strive to keep up the probiotic intake for at least 2 weeks after full recovery, as this will further strengthen your immune system and prevent the chances of a relapse.
It’s very important that you don’t go overboard with the dosages of probiotics you’re taking, however, as this can very easily become counterproductive to what you’re trying to achieve.
8) Protecting Others
If you’re not careful enough, there’s a good chance you could pass your stomach bug onto others people living in the same household – and the last thing you now need is double the trouble!
That leaves one less person capable of caring for baby, which is definitely not a situation you’ll want to find yourself in.
So, start by covering all the basic hygiene issues at first.
Thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and soap before you touch stuff you share in common with other household members such as food, use your own towel and do not come in any sort of contact with those of other household members, don’t wash your clothes with those of other household members when doing laundry, thoroughly wash your hands before cooking to kill off any germs, etc ..
The more effort you put into this, the less likely you’ll pass on your stomach bug to another household member. What a nightmare it is to just imagine you passing your stomach bug to your entire family, right?
After everything’s said and done and you’re now feeling much better, it’s evaluation time.
If getting a stomach virus was your fault because you didn’t do enough to prevent it from happening, then that’s a lesson learned the hard way for the future.
Evaluate what you could have done better, what precautions you could have taken but didn’t, and improve your chances of prevention.
If it wasn’t really your fault and/or there was nothing you could really do about it to prevent it from happening, then don’t give yourself too much of a hard time over it – tomorrow’s another day and life goes on!
When Should I Go To The Doctor?
If you experience any of the following, get checked by a doctor or talk to your midwife as soon as possible.
Procrastinating or just putting it off with the hope of getting better with time will only put your well being – and that of your baby – at an increased risk.
- No improvement is noticed after 48 hours (Most stomach bugs usually go away on their own after 24 to 36 hours).
- Inability to drink enough fluids without constantly vomiting it out
- Inability to re-hydrate, and your dehydration condition keeps getting worse
- Your fever is no longer low grade, it’s now above 100.4° F (38° C)
- Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/viral-gastroenteritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20378847. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Dehydration During Pregnancy. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/dehydration-pregnancy/. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Viral Gastroenteritis: Managing Symptoms and Finding Relief. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2017/february2017/viral-gastroenteritis-managing-symptoms-and-finding-relief. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- The BRAT Diet. https://www.webmd.com/children/brat-diet. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Ginger: Possible Health Benefits and Side Effects. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/ginger-uses-and-risks#1. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Treatment of Viral Gastroenteritis (“Stomach Flu”). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/viral-gastroenteritis/treatment. Accessed June 30, 2019.