Blood in Stool During Pregnancy: What To Do

Published July 15th, 2022 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley
Medically Reviewed:
Camille Freking

As if the changes to your hormones, morning sickness, and back pain weren’t enough, you suddenly find red streaks on the toilet paper when you use the restroom.

Finding blood in your stool is alarming anytime, but when you’re pregnant, your concern is multiplied. 

While your body is busy building your baby, you might be on pins and needles whenever you notice a change in your normal routine.

Bloody poop can cause panic, but before you lose your cool, you should know that bloody stool is fairly common during pregnancy. 

We’ll tell you what’s causing it, how to tell if it’s truly blood you’re seeing, and what you can do to help stop it. We’ll also cover when to call your doctor. 

What’s Causing Blood in My Stool During Pregnancy?

You aren't alone if you’re experiencing some interesting output in the bathroom while pregnant.

About two out of three pregnant people experience blood in their stool during pregnancy. Thankfully, the causes aren’t usually emergencies.

Hemorrhoids 

You’ve heard the rumors, and now you know they’re true. Hemorrhoids and pregnancy can sometimes go hand in hand; the culprit is your hormones. As soon as you become pregnant, your body produces extra amounts of progesterone and estrogen. 

Progesterone is known as the “relaxation” hormone. It works to relax your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to prepare you for giving birth. At the same time, it relaxes all the muscles in your body, including the ones in your intestines. 

This relaxation can cause your digestive process to slow down, making it harder for you to pass stool. Straining when passing stool is a known cause of hemorrhoids. 

Hemorrhoids are swollen, inflamed blood vessels that surround the anus. Increased blood flow during pregnancy may also add additional pressure to these areas. Symptoms of hemorrhoids can include:

  • Small, painful lumps around the anus
  • Blood in the stool (usually bright red drops or streaks on the toilet paper)
  • Itching or burning around the anus
  • Pain when seated or attempting to pass stool

Hemorrhoids can occur early in pregnancy and during labor and delivery due to the pressure on your perineum and anus while pushing. 

Prenatal Vitamins

Your prenatal vitamins aren’t causing blood in your stool, but they could make it harder for you to produce stool, leading to straining and blood.

Pregnant people need more iron than non-pregnant people, and your prenatal vitamin usually contains the amount you need. 

An unfortunate side effect of iron? Constipation

Anal Fissures 

Unlike hemorrhoids (swollen blood vessels that may burst and bleed), anal fissures are tears that can occur in your anus. Fissures can be caused by forceful straining when you use the bathroom during pregnancy. 

However, there are other reasons you might develop anal fissures. Having frequent bouts of diarrhea and developing a sexually transmitted infection can also cause an anal fissure. Symptoms of an anal fissure can include:

  • Bleeding when you pass stool
  • Pain and burning or stinging before and after having a bowel movement
  • Discomfort when sitting

If you have an anal fissure, the blood in your stool will likely be bright red.

Viruses and Infections

Sometimes, the cause of blood in your stool during pregnancy can be caused by something other than hormonal changes.

Certain viral infections can cause you to have blood in your stool, but you’ll usually notice accompanying symptoms like:

  • Stomach aches
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting 

If you think you have a stomach virus, you should contact your doctor to let them know.

They may want to see you to ensure you don’t get dehydrated. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

This umbrella term refers to any inflammatory disease of the bowels, like Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

These conditions may precede pregnancy, but they can also lead to blood in the stool while you are pregnant. 

Due to changes in your hormones while you are pregnant and the difficulty with which you have bowel movements, you may experience more flare-ups of your disease or find more blood in your stool when you have a bowel movement. 

Talk to your doctor about your condition and how it can affect your pregnancy. 

Cancer

Although it is extremely rare, colon cancer during pregnancy can cause you to have blood in your stool.

Only about 1 in 13,000 pregnant people will receive this diagnosis, so it’s unlikely that the blood in your stool is from cancer. 

Symptoms of colon cancer can be very slight and can often be confused with other pregnancy symptoms. You may have:

  • Dark black or deep purple blood in your stool
  • Pain in your lower abdomen

Your doctor will help you determine if you need to be screened for colon cancer while you are pregnant. 

What Are the Symptoms of Bloody Stool During Pregnancy?

Is what you see actual blood? It can be hard to tell. Even more difficult is deciphering whether or not the blood is appearing in your stool or from somewhere else.

It goes without saying, bleeding and spotting during pregnancy (though somewhat normal) can be a concern. 

Luckily, period-like bleeding and spotting are usually very different from the blood you find in your stool. Symptoms of bloody stool include:

  • Streaks of red blood on your toilet tissue
  • Strings of bright red or dark red blood in your stool
  • Pain around your anus
  • Discomfort when you pass stool

If you are experiencing period-like bleeding or spotting, you will most likely notice it when you are not having a bowel movement, although it can coincide with one. You may also experience brownish or purplish spotting.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Passing blood in the stool can be frightening, and you should always mention it to your doctor to ensure you do not need an examination.

Your doctor can decide whether a diagnostic exam is necessary and help rule out any serious conditions. 

How Can I Deal With Bloody Stool During Pregnancy?

If you’re experiencing bowel movement blues during your pregnancy, there are some at-home remedies you can try to get relief and experience less painful stools. 

Increase Your Fiber

The hormones that relax your muscles during pregnancy can make it harder for your stool to make it from point A to point B.

Increasing your fiber can help your bowels get the job done more easily. 

Increasing your fiber intake is best accomplished by eating fiber-rich foods like whole grains and green vegetables.

Although increasing your fiber can make you feel bloated and gassy, those symptoms pass, and your stool comes out without as much straining, preventing you from seeing blood in your bowel movements. 

Try a Stool Softener

The longer stool sits in your intestines, the harder it can become, making it difficult to pass.

Check with your doctor or healthcare provider about whether taking a stool softener is safe for your pregnancy. Stool softeners help pull water into the intestines, making your stool softer and easier to pass. 

Exercise

Keeping your body active during pregnancy (with your doctor’s permission) can help increase regularity and make it easier for you to have a daily bowel movement.

A 15 to 20-minute walk can help activate your muscles and give your digestive system a head start. 

Prenatal yoga is another option for maternity exercise that can help keep your body healthy and encourage easier bowel movements.

Prenatal yoga is a program that encourages stretching and breathing techniques that can help you throughout your pregnancy and help you with labor and delivery. 

Eat a Balanced Diet

We know that pregnancy cravings can be intense, but if your diet consists mostly of prepackaged snacks and fast food, you’ll likely experience issues when trying to use the bathroom.

These foods usually lack adequate fiber, are packed with sodium, and can contain ingredients that don’t promote healthy bowels. 

Make sure you are eating fruits and vegetables daily, along with lean proteins and whole grains to support your pregnancy and your bowel health. 

Keeping Bloody Stools at Bay

Passing blood in your stool while pregnant isn’t uncommon, even though it can be frightening to see.

While it usually does not constitute a medical emergency and does not pose a threat to your pregnancy, you should discuss any blood you see with your doctor. 

If your doctor determines it’s constipation, there are remedies you can try to support healthy bowel movements while you are pregnant.

Taking care of these issues will not only help you have a happier and more comfortable pregnancy, but it will also help support your body postpartum.

References, Studies and Sources:

Anorectal symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum: a prospective cohort study | PubMed 

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic 

Challenges Associated with Colorectal Cancer in Pregnancy - Case Reports in Gastroenterology 2019, Vol. 13, No. 2 | Karger Publishers 

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