Are you pregnant? Do you have bathroom-related questions you’re too embarrassed to ask?
Every part of your body is affected by pregnancy, and your digestive system is no exception. In fact, a relatively common pregnancy complaint is green poop.
If you’re experiencing green poop or have other toilet-related pregnancy questions, then read on. We’ve got everything you need to know, but are too mortified to ask.
Understanding Your Poop
Before we can launch into an explanation of why your poop might be green, we first need to give you a quick science lesson. Stay with us here; we promise it’s brief.
The Digestive System
Your digestive system consists of everything between your mouth and your rectum or all of the parts of your body necessary to carry food from the point of eating through elimination.
This includes (1):
- Salivary glands.
- Small Intestine.
- Large Intestine.
What Poop is Made Of
Poop is also known as stool or excrement. Your poop itself is actually composed of a number of materials, including (2):
- Dead bacteria.
- Indigestible food, like fiber.
- Fat and cholesterol.
- Intestinal mucus.
Why Poop is Brown
Your body breaks down fats with a substance produced in the liver called bile. Bile is a greenish-yellow color, but as it moves through your digestive system, it reacts with bacteria and enzymes. Red blood cells break down into a byproduct called bilirubin and when it mixes with the rest of the substances in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the color changes to brown (3). This is what ultimately makes your poop look brown.
How Does Pregnancy Affect My Digestion?
Pregnancy can significantly alter your digestive processes, primarily due to the hormone progesterone (4). Progesterone causes your system to slow, resulting in longer transit time and also makes it more difficult for your body to absorb nutrients from food.
Toward the end of your pregnancy, you may experience diarrhea shortly before labor. This is due to the hormonal shifts your body is experiencing as it gears up for delivery. While it may not signal that labor is imminent, it is a symptom commonly experienced by mothers toward the end of their pregnancy (5).
What Should Poop Look Like When I’m Pregnant?
Collectively, healthy pregnant poop looks the same as non-pregnant poop, but individually you may notice a difference thanks to changes in your hormones.
Your poop should be soft enough that it does not hurt when you go, but cohesive enough that it stays together in the toilet.
What Can Cause My Poop to Turn Green?
Many things can affect the color of your stool.
Many fruits and vegetables will cause temporary changes to the color of your poop. Most notably are green-colored veggies, as the chlorophyll can get into your poop and cause it to turn green, too.
An overabundance of veggies can cause your stool to turn green for other reasons as well. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, which is necessary to help with intestinal transit.
However, this fiber is not digestible by your body and will come out the other end virtually unchanged. This can affect your stool color not because of the chlorophyll, but just because of the undigested green food that makes up part of your poop.
Take a Breath and Keep Calm
2. Synthetic Food Dyes
Have you ever gone to a kid’s birthday party, had a cupcake with neon blue icing, and then nearly had a heart attack the next day when you went to the bathroom? No? Only me?
Well, suffice it to say that food dye can have a shocking effect on your stool color. The good news, however, is that it’s very short-lived.
If you notice green poop and it’s a one-time event, try to think of the things you’ve eaten over the past day or two. Even brightly colored cereals or drink mixes can have a psychedelic effect on your toilet. Chances are, you’ll be able to chalk it up to food choices.
3. Iron Supplements
If you’re pregnant, you’re probably taking a prenatal vitamin. Some women are also encouraged by their doctor to take a separate iron supplement. Iron is famous for tinting your poop green, and it’s completely normal.
Your body will take what it needs, eliminate what it doesn’t, and the end result? Green poop.
Never take additional iron while pregnant without consulting your doctor, and if you’re concerned about greenish stools while taking the supplements just mention it to them. As an OB/GYN, nothing will shock them — they’ve seen and heard it all.
While incredibly helpful at killing harmful bacteria and healing infections, antibiotics are also exceptionally good at killing healthy gut bacteria, too. This means that while you’re taking a course of antibiotics your digestive health might take a temporary dive, and all the changes can result in green poop.
If you’re experiencing green stool thanks to antibiotics, take a probiotic a few hours after your daily dose or after you finish your treatment. It can help get your innards back in proper working order.
5. Short Transit Time
Short transit time is commonly associated with diarrhea, but this is not always the case. It may just be looser-than-you’re-used-to stools — primarily because with a shorter transit time, there is more water content remaining in your poop since it wasn’t in your colon long enough to be absorbed.
When this happens, your poop may appear green simply because the bile didn’t have enough time to chemically react with the other things in the intestines and turn brown.
Loose stools with a short transit time are common in early pregnancy, toward the end of pregnancy, and any time you may experience stress or anxiety.
It’s Usually Normal
We get it. You’re already running to the bathroom every 20 minutes to pee since your baby is sitting on your bladder, so it can be hard to drum up the motivation to drink as much water as you should while you’re pregnant.
However, dehydration during pregnancy can have not only serious health implications but also less-serious but bothersome side effects.
Should I Be Concerned About My Weird Poop?
While strange-looking poop can be shocking during your pregnancy, there are very few reasons it should concern you. Certain types of stool can indeed be a symptom of a more serious underlying issue, but those conditions will almost always have other accompanying symptoms like severe abdominal pain or blood in the stool.
You should contact your doctor if you experience any of the following in conjunction with green poop:
1. Ongoing Loose Stools or Diarrhea
If your loose stools persist for more than 2 to 3 days, contact your doctor. Dehydration can be severe, especially when you’re pregnant. Your doctor can help determine whether your diarrhea is due to another treatable health condition, or just a virus that needs to run its course.
Regardless, make sure you drink plenty of water to try and stay hydrated.
2. Bloody Stools
Though bloody stools sound scary, they’re common during pregnancy thanks to hemorrhoids. However, if you have lots of bright red blood in your stool, loose poop that looks like it has coffee grounds in it, or your bloody poop persists for several days, contact your doctor.
The brighter red the stool, the closer the bleed is to the exit! If you are having bright red bleeding, it’s usually due to hemorrhoids. If your stool is black and looks like coffee grounds, it is higher up in your GI tract. Notify your primary care provider because coffee ground stools is a worrisome side effect.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
3. Severe Abdominal Cramping
Severe abdominal cramping during pregnancy is never normal. If you experience this, it could be the result of food poisoning or a more serious health condition.
Be On the Lookout
Though open discussions about bathroom-related issues seem to be taboo, rest assured they are welcomed in your doctor’s office. Your doctor has your health as their top concern, and if you’re experiencing even the smallest of symptoms, it’s helpful for them to know about it.
It’s also helpful for you when they reassure you that some of the “strange” things you’ve been experiencing are normal. So gather your courage and start that uncomfortable conversation.
The Bottom Line
Poop has gotten a lot of press lately about how it’s a window into one’s health. And while that’s generally true, it’s also caused a lot of people unnecessary worry because “normal” has a lot of variation.
Throw in pregnancy — and the never-ending worries about potential health complications –, and you’ve got a recipe for a good freak-out. Once you have your baby, you’ll be talking about their poop all the time. So you might as well get used to it now.