Will IBS Affect My Pregnancy?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that affects the large intestine. It is common, affecting close to 15% of the population with chronic abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, cramping and discomfort. A person may experience one or two symptoms, or all of them. IBS is not an illness, rather it is categorized as a functional disorder since it involves intestinal malfunction without any visible disease or tissue damage.
10 Ways IBS Affects Women
Women are affected significantly more than men when it comes to IBS. While research has not yet given a reason why this is so, there are some findings that are focused on IBS in women. We list ten of those findings here:
· IBS symptoms are commonly affected by the menstrual cycle.
· Pregnancy can improve the symptoms of IBS in many women.
· Many women find symptoms of IBS decrease after menopause.
· IBS puts women at higher risk for endometriosis.
· The risk of hysterectomy is higher for women with IBS.
· Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in women are linked to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, yet neither birth control pills nor HRT have any effect on IBS symptoms.
· A significant number of women with IBS have a history of physical or sexual abuse.
· Women with IBS have more difficulty relaxing and enjoying sex.
· Although not at higher risk for urinary incontinence, women with IBS have a higher risk of suffering from urinary urgency.
· Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) symptoms occur more in women with IBS.
Unpredictable and Problematic
Even though research shows that pregnancy can improve the symptoms of IBS, there is still no guarantee it will definitely get better. Women who do not have IBS can become subject to GI distress due to the hormonal fluctuations that are so extreme during pregnancy. Sometimes the symptoms of IBS change during pregnancy and a woman who, prior to conception, had IBS with symptoms of diarrhea (IBS-D) may experience more IBS with constipation (IBS-C) during her pregnancy. IBS is quite unpredictable and symptoms can change every month.
Not only can the symptoms change during the pregnancy, but they can also vary from one pregnancy to the next. It is well known that gastrointestinal symptoms and pregnancy go together with the most common symptoms being nausea and heartburn, especially in the first trimester. However, the effects of pregnancy on the bowel are not as clear. Many women experience constipation, especially during the last trimester, while many encounter an increase in stool frequency. Both increased hormone levels and the pressure of the growing baby are implicated in these changes. Since progesterone and estrogen receptors are found in the digestive system, the changing levels can make an impact upon the GI tract.