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Gastro in Pregnancy

Today I want to talk to you about something that is incredibly common in pregnancy and is absolutely rotten. It affects pregnant women all the time, in fact I would go as far as to say that every pregnancy a woman will get this condition at least once. What am I talking about? Gastro. More specifically, viral gastroenteritis.

The virus results in diarrhoea, vomiting – one or both of these – abdominal pain, generally feeling dreadful and sometimes fevers. It’s typically caused by the ‘Norovirus’ or sometimes ‘Rotavirus’.

As an aside, I reckon that for every 100 people that think they have food poisoning, 90 out of those 100 actually have viral gastro.

Now it’s really common in pregnancy for a few reasons:

  • Firstly, women are immunologically more susceptible to pathogens when they’re pregnant.
  • Secondly, the viruses which cause these awful symptoms are really easily transmitted person to person.
  • Thirdly, women are very commonly in close contact with disease spreaders. Of course, I’m referring to grubby children. 😉

Usually, it’s of short duration, lasting between 12 and 60 hours but it can be brutal during this time.

So, what can you do if you get it in pregnancy?

Firstly, don’t worry, it’s not going to harm your baby. It can only potentially compromise the fetus if you are so incredibly dehydrated, and I’ve never seen things get that bad in my career.

What should you do?

You should rest – go to bed. You should take small, regular sips of fluid, such as gastrolyte, which you can pick up at the chemist. You can even use sports drinks, just don’t use really sugary drinks as that can make things worse. Take regular paracetamol to control your aches and pains and fevers if you have them.

When you feel ready to try and eat, try and eat small and bland things like potatoes, rice and oats. If you’re vomiting and you can’t tolerate anything, there are effect anti-nausea medications you can take like Maxolon or Zofran.

When do you need to see a doctor?

As a general rule, if you haven’t been able to keep down any food for more than 24 hours, or any fluid for more than 12 hours, you should consider seeing your doctor. Also, if you’re not really producing any urine over a prolonged period of time, that’s another thing that suggests you might need to see a doctor.

But please, ensure you’re not spreading this virus to other compromised people that are at risk, like pregnant women. So, don’t go to your maternity centre or your obstetrician’s rooms. Go to the emergency department or your GP. What can they do? You can get intravenous fluid to replace that fluid that has been absolutely unceremoniously stripped out of your body.

Finally, I will say that prevention is far better than cure, so, if you’re in contact with (previously said) grubby children, please wash your hands constantly and try and minimise your contact with them.

Good luck!

Dr Brad Robinson
Obstetrician Gynaecologist (ObGyn)
Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Greenslopes Private Hospital
Brisbane, Queensland

Gastro in pregnancy blog by Dr Brad Robinson, Brisbane Obstetrician Gynaecologist

To speak directly with a team member please call 07 3188 5000