36 answers

4 Year Old Looks like She's Pregnant

Here is my concern. I have a 4.5 yr girl whos stomach sticks out so far that it looks like she is pregnant. It does this sometimes but not all the time. We have been having this problem for over a year now. When I took in for it before they gave her senokot for a week, and suggested maybe a lactose intolerance issue and said to give her Lactaid when she has dairy. We did that and her stomach was ok for a while. But like I said it doesnt look big all the time. She usually has a bm everyday or every other day. When she went for her Kindergarten physical a few months ago I mentioned it again, but of course that day her belly looked fine. They did blood tests for Celiac, and a RAST for milk, they both came back fine. The doc said that even if the RAST come back ok, if I see that she has problems after having milk, then she might still have an intolerance. Well whenver I read about lactose intolerance they always mention diareah. She never has diareah. Her pants always fall down because her belly gets so big, they wont go over it. I cant just get her a bigger size cause the rest of her is skinny. Like I mentioned she is 4.5, she weighs 31 lbs, and is 38in. My 3yr old weighs 30 lbs. I am really concerned since she is underweight and her belly does this. She eats pretty good. Dont know if this can be related just in case, about 8 months ago she lost a patch of her hair. The docs said it was because of tension form her hair being in a ponytail. I dont buy that. Her hair has thinned out all over and is very brittle. She is taking vitamins. Her hair is slowly growing back. Any thoughts?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks everyone. For now I am going to keep a diary of her symptoms and what she eats. After I do this for a couple weeks I will go back to the doc, I will probably just go to a gastro doc though. I will keep everyone updated. Thanks again everybody.

Featured Answers

If the first doctor says she's fine, get a second opinion. When her stomach sticks out like that, call the doctor and say she needs to be seen immediately, because the symptoms she is showing will go away soon. Hopefully, whatever tests they run then will tell you something.

Hi there! I am an adult, but I do the same thing I bloat very badly with dairy, especially Ice cream, but I am also clean as far as the tests go

Take her to another doctor for a second opinion. Keep a log of what she is eating and activites on every day to show the doctor what is going on when you note her belly getting bigger or hair falling out or any other physical symptom you notice.
D. O

More Answers

Hi there! I am an adult, but I do the same thing I bloat very badly with dairy, especially Ice cream, but I am also clean as far as the tests go

Hi! I would have her thyroid and pituitary checked. She could have a problem with her growth hormones which are generated by the pituitary and subsequent adrenal glands. it is right to be concerned as this does not sound like "normal" growth for a 4yo. My growth problem went on for 6 years before a good doctor found the problem. You may ask your PCP to send her to an endochronologist for a systemic workup. Best wishes to you!!

Have them check her thyroid. It can effect weight loss/gain and also effects hair (can cause thinning/loss of hair). My daughter and my sons girlfriend have this issue only at the opposite ends of the spectrum. While my daughter was losing weight like crazy despite being pregnant, my sons girlfriend put on a lot of weight and her hair was falling out/thinning out. When she was discussing this with a new doctor today they explained the other side effects of the disorder. I am not sure if it could be this or not but something to check in to, as well as maybe a liver enzyme test. I wish you and your child good luck and blessed health.

T., SEE a DIFFERENT DOCTOR! Don't let ANY Dr. pass over your concerns, start keeping a food and BM diary, start today, write down everything she eats, how much, when she has bowel movements, when her tummy is big, take pictures, in the diary it may show what is giving her trouble. If hep temperment changes, write that down too, if you have pictures to show her hair thinning, take those too. She could be gluten intolerent, or have other allergies, fruits... every ones body reacts different. IF you go prepared a doc is more likely to listen, send you to an allergist or specialist. A food allergy could be making her body not absorb the proper nutrients, which is why her hair is falling out. Start YESTERDAY! If there is another doc in the office you go to see that one, or find a different DOCTOR. PLEASE. Good LUCK,

Have they tested her thyroid? Also have her treated for parasites (worms)

Hi T., Please don't let the doctors brush you off like this. Is there pain when it swells? I would keep a diary like someone suggested, write down the foods, her routine, what she is doing (lethargic, playful, cranky, etc). This could be stress and diet, it could also be hormonal (thyroid, etc). I hope that you take the advice given and take her to a gastric specialist and if he doesn't offer a diagnosis that includes the hair problem then take her to an endocrinologist. Prayers to you.

This is just a thought: I remember when my younger daughter was that age and she had a "huge belly" too. She is very fair, so you could also see all the veins under the skin. I worried that she had something growing in her belly, there are childhood neoplasms that can grow fairly rapidly. Thinking of the worst, I was always horrified that something terrible would happen to my angel. Her belly was like that much of the time but not always. Thinking back, my older daughter had less of a belly, too. In our case, as in many other cases, it was simply the weak and relatively undeveloped nature of the abdominal muscles at this age-- they are not strong enought to hold all the intestines in flat as yet :) Lots of kids go through this stage, I think, at about this age, and as the abdominal muscles get stronger, their tummies get flatter -- I wish mine would not do the opposite ! My daughters are now 9 and 6 and their tummies no longer stick out, they are healthy and robust (God willing will continue to be). The older is now actually pretty skinny but well muscled for her age, the younger still has a tiny amount of baby fat. But her tummy is now almost flat as well. They have both grown well. I think perhaps the key is whether the child is doing well otherwise and growing approprietly. I would start to worry if she crosses one or especially 2 of her growth curves (like the 50%tile or 25% or any other) but as long as she is staying close to her previous growth curve and she is a happy kid otherwise, then it's probably just the abdominal wall muscle weakness and nothing to worry about. But if she HAS "fallen off the growth curve" as they say, then seeing a pediatrician and even 2 is worthwhile, but remember that sub-specialists (like gastroenterologists and endocrinologists are trained to look at a body part or single system -- if they do not see something wrong with their particular organ system, they are likely to simply move you along to someone else. You can spend a lot of time and get gray hair doing that. SOmewhat contrary to what I've read here, I'd suggest talking to a good general pediatrician who has been in practice for 10 years or so. A general pediatrician in practice for a decade or so has seen thousands of kids grow up, and is likely to see a pattern if there is one. S/he is also more likely to look at your daughter as a human being rather than a "bag of parts". If you are really concerned, then going to an academic center like UofM or Wayne State or MSU. One thing not to do is to go doctor shopping for a diagnosis. You'll eventually find someone who will give her a diagnosis whether she deserves one or not, and might treat her -- take care that the treatment is not worse than the "problem". Again, if your daughter is growing along the same curve as before, in terms of both height and weight, that is highly reassuring. If not, really consider an academic center consultation, but again, I'd say start with general pediatrics, then let them direct her to a sub-specialist if needed. Pediatricians are specialists in kids, after all. Again, this is just a thought.

I suggest to start a food diary and then possibly an elimination diet.

Keep track of what she eats VERY specifically, and also write down when her tummy was bloated looking - for a week or 2 (longer if needed) then look back and try to notice if there's any thing that could be a trigger. What she eats today might affect her right away, but it could also be a delayed reaction, so look at what she ate the day before, and 2 days before the bloating happened in the diary.

If this seems too difficult, you could just start the elimination diet and start by eliminating ALL dairy (including sour cream, cream cheese, lactose, casein, whey, etc.- there are so many different names for milk based products. It might not only be a lactose problem, she could be having difficulty with the proteins in milk) and wheat/gluten flours (including oat - anything, bran, barley, semolina, white bread, white flour, anything that says "contains wheat" or "contains gluten", etc.) . Don't give anything that would contain either of these types of foods for at least 3-4 weeks. See what happens.

If you choose to do the elimination diet, there are rice and gluten free breads and mixes that you can make at home which you can use to substitute. Our grocery store carries them in the health food isle. Ask your store manager if you can't find them.

(I have a son who is gluten and dairy intolerant. He has different symptoms than you described, but, what you described is a possible symptom that I have heard from other parents.)

If the bloating doesn't go away with the elimination diet, then it might not be that. Unless you weren't really strict. If it does go away, then you can try adding in ONE of the things only, and see what happens. DO NOT add in both at once! It's critical to be able to determine what the problem is. Then, if the bloating comes back by adding in one, then take her off of it again, stay off both for awhile, maybe a week, then add back in item #2, and see what happens. If the bloating comes back again, then maybe it's both, if it doesn't maybe it's only one.

You'll know more than anyone. AND WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING!!
Keep doing the journal and READ EVERYTHING YOU BUY for ingredients.

I'd HIGHLY recommend that you look at the web site


It's a very thorough resourse of parents who have children with food allergies, or celiac. Sometimes allergy tests are wrong, and sometimes celiac tests are wrong. Check with these VERY knowledgable parents! They have GREAT answers to many questions.

Good luck!


None of these doctors have suggested or scheduled an MRI or x-ray? I sure as heck would. Follow your instincts sometimes. It can pay off.
Personally I'd quit with the doctors. I'd find an alternative practitioner who can get to the root of the problem and deal with it from there. A good balance between conventional and alternative medicine is to be preferred.
I hope this somehow works out well. It sounds unnerving.

My 2 cents as a medical assistant is that if you are ever not happy with the response/treatment you are getting from your doctor, take your business elsewhere.
My daughter had a nasty cough for over 4 months and her ped insisted it was asthma and tried to give her med after med and test after test that wasn't working. My daughter was about to have to wait SIX MONTHS to get into a pulmonologist when I took her to another ped. She said "She has walking pnumonia" gave her an antibiotic, she has barely coughed since. Be her advocate!

I tried doing an online search of this and nothing came up relating the 2 things, but it sounds like her symptoms indicate she's not getting nourished by the food she eats. Get the best specialist you can find and don't let down until you get answers! Maybe consult a nutritionist, too? They see things differently than MDs sometimes. Hope its a simple fix once they figure out what's going on. We'll pray for you!

I would get a second opinion from a different doctor.

you may want to see about taking her to a gastroentonologist (sp.) and intolorance doesnt always give diahrrea...i have i mild form of it....there is a test they can do where she fasts and they give her the lactose and test her breath every so often for the gas that forms when there is an intolorance...my oldest daughter had the test done and it is painless

hope this helps

Hi T.,

I too agree with the other moms that she needs to have addional testing and a second opinion. Has she had blood work or an ultrasound or CT of the abdomen. Some doctors do not do these expensive procedures until they have seen the child more than once for the same problem. Secondly a childrens hospital would be the place to go for a second opinion, they would not fool around and would refer you to their colleages in other departments if they feel the problem is from something else.
I don't know how your child looks but mine had tummys on them too and I found that kids grow out before they shot upward.

The hair falling out in patches and thinning... that's a big red flag. Seek out a second opinion and specialist if you can. I would start with a gastro specialist. If your mommy instinct says there is something wrong.. I would bet there is. God didn't give us mothers intuition for nothing. We are programmed to be sensitive to our children and know when something isn't right.

I would evaluate her and look for any 'odd' behavior or symptoms.... does she seem tired, any skin irritations... anything. Then take the info to a new doc. Don't stop until you get answers!

WOW! I hope you quickly find the reason behind this! How scary...

Have you had her thyroid checked? She could have an overactive thyroid. Thyroid disease is a reason behind thinning hair and being very thin.

Secondly, have you thought about food allergies? Maybe gluten is behind it. I would take her to an allergist and have her tested for everything, especially since your doctor seems so nonchalant about this.

Tension thinning for wearing your hair back doesnt happen in patches. It's mostly breakage and single hairs being pulled out.

Good luck with this and you're in my prayers!


I would further pursue the celiac testing. I have a daughter who is and I know from research that blood tests don't always come back with the right answer.

So I would suggest that you eliminate ALL gluten from her diet for a month or so and see if that takes it away, that is long enough to notice if her tummy goes down and stays down.

If you do that, you have to be very careful as gluten is hidden in many many things, such as sauces and dressings etc...

Hope that helps

Poor kid - sounds like she definitely needs an excellent pediatrician - swollen abdomen, weightloss/failure to thrive, hair brittle and falling out (from a ponytail?! all our girls would be bald!) - the doc doesn't seem to be taking her condition seriously. Get a 2nd opinion, if not outright switch peds. And the mean time, go ahead and cut dairy - switch to soy products and see it that helps - soymilk, soy yogurts, cheeses.
Another thought - intestinal parasites, of which there are many. they are definitely known for bellyswelling, weightloss, etc.
Hope she gets well soon . . . L.

Hi T.---I might be looking for another doctor and a second opinion. I would also look at stopping cows milk all together. Go to www.pcrm.org and there you can find a link to why milk is not the best for humans. It is highly alergenic and is reported to be a leading cause of type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. Milk allergies tend to be very tricky to determine. We were milk lovers at our house, and after careful research, we no longer drink milk. You wonder about calcium? There are MANY sources that are far more easily absorbed than from milk. Goats milk is more like human milk. The same problem for gluten intolerance exists as it also causes symptoms that cannot be diagnosed as celiacs or any other gluten allergy. She may be sensitive but not allergic. I have a number of resources available to share so feel free to contact me for more information. Good luck. D.

it sounds very much like an intestinal parasite. poor nutrient absorption affects the health of her hair, as well. has your doctor done any stool samples or blood work for parasites? i hope she is healthy soon.

I did a short search on Google for distended abdomen and came up with parasitic disorders. These can usually be treated quiet easily when diagnosed. I suggest you take her to a gastroenterologist. This should not go unattended. She is probably uncomfortable but doesn't realize it because she has been this way for such a long time.
I also suggest you google this too and see what you arrive at. I think that in this case it is better to error on the side of perservering. You know your child better than any one else. Remember docs are not gods and many times dismiss things that are important. Be persistant for your child. It will also teacher the child persistance. Good Luck! (My Email is ____@____.com

I have never experienced anything like what you explained, but I want to encourage you to follow you instincts and get second or even third opinions to make sure everything is okay. You know your child best and if it doesn't seem normal or right then continue to pursue it.

My husband had hodgkins disease, but before he was diagnosed his doctors said it was a sinus infection or flu. He was persistant because he didn't feel well and eventually they did a biopsy and found out he had hodgkins disease. Fortunately he responded well to chemo and radiation and has been in remission for over 10 years.

Good luck.

Hi T.,
I absolutely agree with the others! Find another doctor. Something isn't right and it really doesn't seem like your daughter's regular doctor is taking it seriously. Good Luck! Please keep us posted!

If the first doctor says she's fine, get a second opinion. When her stomach sticks out like that, call the doctor and say she needs to be seen immediately, because the symptoms she is showing will go away soon. Hopefully, whatever tests they run then will tell you something.

Take her to another doctor for a second opinion. Keep a log of what she is eating and activites on every day to show the doctor what is going on when you note her belly getting bigger or hair falling out or any other physical symptom you notice.
D. O

Have a specialist run the test again and double check the other test to see if was run correctly!

Yes have her checked for celiac disease again they can do blood work for that but they have to request a special test. Tell your doctor. I have it and yes it well make you look pregnant.

Also you need to get all the info you can if she has this because diet is very important. There is so many things that are in foods that I can not eat so I stay with natural (fresh foods) watch even snacks like Doritos and flavor potato chips. Some spice combinations have hidden ingredients.

My specialists sent me information that help me learn of the hidden dangers of some foods. If she has this her body will attack itself.

When I eat the wrong foods I get sleeply and can not stay awake.

Good Luck

It sounds to me like a health issue and I would hound your doctors or even find new ones until someone is listening to you- the falling out of hair could be a nutritional issue.

Be persistant with your doc.
A pic is worth 1000 words, use your camera or video camera to document her tummy, then take it with you to the doc.

I cannot tell you what might be happening with her, but I can say this. Trust your instincts. If you think something is not right, find a doctor who will listen, as your's obviously is not listening to your concerns.

The hair loss/thinning/brittleness is not normal. If a doctor cannot give you any answers, consider a good nutritionist or kinesthesiologist.

Keep trying until you find an answer. Good luck!

I would get a second opinion on this. Docs can overlook things if they have never seen them. The test they did for cealic disease may have been wrong. Also, it could be the dairy, I would put her on a gluten free and dairy free diet untill you can find out what the problem is. Something is definatly up.

I had this same problem when I was young. My mom took me to the doctor. The first time he said that I just ate to much and to put me on a diet, but I didn't I barely ate enough. So then they had my thyroid and other things tested. Still nothing. When I was older about 19 they found out I had polycystic ovaries and an inability to digest carbohydrates. I am not sure how young these conditions can affect your body as I would think they wouldn't until pruberty, but I do know I looked pregnant most of my life until I cut down my carbohydrates and started adding fiber to my diet. I would seriously check with an endocrynologist a.s.a.p I wish my mother had it may have saved me a lifetime of being torched by children and myself. Hope this is helpful...

dear T.,

i can't agree more with these other moms!! you need a 2nd opinion and also with a specialist. peds are by nature generalists. mine always encourages me to see a specialist if/when she feels there is an issue even slightly beyond her grasp.


If I were you, I would find another doctor (talk to friends to get good referrals) and get a second opinion. It doesn't sound right to me, in fact it sounds very wrong. My mom went years with a kidney problem that by the time it was diagnosed (4 doctors later) she almost had to have it removed. You don't want to play around with your childs health.

Hi T.,
I agree with the other moms, get a second opinion. If you truly feel there is something wrong, there probably is. I strongly believe in mothers instict and I follow it. I also agree with Lacy, go and try and research all the symptoms that she has. I hope everything is ok with her. Good luck.

Keep looking for a specialist. The fact that her hair falls out is a major red flag...has her thyroid been tested? My personal opinion is to research her symptoms (even ones that don't seem to be related) and see if you can find a common link. Then find another doc for another opinion. Your ped shouldn't mind if you do!


seek out a pedi gastro specialist......

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