IBS and Pregnancy

Why now of all times?!

Pregnant woman - IBS Symptoms

Pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time, not a time for IBS symptoms.
© Can Stock Photo

I’ve never been pregnant (obviously), but here’s what I’ve read about IBS and pregnancy.

Speaking as an outsider (a male of the species), pregnancy seems like such a beautiful, but challenging time for women.

Some women have their first bout of IBS when pregnant. However some women get relief from IBS symptoms during pregnancy!

Your bowels on hormones.

During your pregnancy, your body produces more estrogen and progesterone.

Increases in these hormones can affect special cells in your bowels, called receptors. That can make your bowels act up.

Note: this same kind of hormonal action can happen during your period, leading to worsening of IBS symptoms. But your period doesn’t last 9 months!

And you also don’t have a bowling ball sitting on your intestinal tract!

According to this study and others like it, it’s pretty typical for women without IBS to develop IBS symptoms during pregnancy. Symptoms seem to last through the pregnancy and for about 3 months after delivery.

If you already have IBS when you get pregnant though, you might be in for a pleasant surprise, see the next section :).

Does pregnancy make IBS worse?

Not always.

Pregnancy has an amazing way of making many chronic conditions better (skin conditions, etc).

Many women who suffer terribly from IBS when not pregnant, find that their symptoms improve or even disappear during pregnancy.

That’s pretty startling to me, considering increased hormones during menstruation are proven to make IBS worse.

Diarrhea and pregnancy:

About a third of all women have more bowel movements than usual, during pregnancy. Some of this increase ends up being diarrhea.

Between that and having to, well, pee, can make it seem like you never leave the bathroom!

Pregnancy and constipation:

Since pretty much no one who is pregnant escapes bowel changes, if you don’t get the diarrhea, you probably end up having constipation (or maybe you’re unlucky enough to have both).

Two thirds of all women experience constipation during pregnancy.

As if you didn’t feel full and bloated enough :(.

Things to try if you have IBS during pregnancy.

There are a number of things that you can try during your pregnancy that should have no negative affect on your unborn child. AS ALWAYS, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TRYING ANYTHING NEW!

Fiber – Yeah, I know, everyone says fiber. But it can help both diarrhea and constipation! Almost nobody gets enough in the first place.

If you can’t get enough in your diet (it can be hard), then maybe you could try one of the fiber supplements that you mix with water. I don’t think people really get enough from the tablets.

Hypnosis – This is a proven remedy for IBS symptoms for people who aren’t pregnant. The mind body connection is a big part of IBS. I can’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t help during pregnancy.

There are recordings you can get online, or there are possibly hypnotherapists in your area. Make sure to ask if the hynotist has training on how to work with IBS.

Excercise – This is another proven remedy for constipation, diarrhea and other IBS symptoms. Of course your doctor probably already told you to move around a bit.

Somehow exercise helps normalize the digestive tract. I’m amazed at how many women are so active, walking or even using an eliptical machine during pregnancy. I’m a couch potato :).

REMEMBER: Make SURE to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercises!

Get enough fluids – Believe it or not, my doctor told me that getting enough fluids can help diarrhea or constipation! He recommended the usual 8×8 oz glasses of water a day.

 RELAX – When my wife was pregnant, she sometimes was a nervous wreck. There’s so much going on in life already, and now there are all kinds of changes in your body; doctor’s appointments; ultrasounds; shopping for the nursery; and social pressures that can go along with pregnancy.

Stress affects IBS during pregnancy just like at other times. I’ve read it’s also good for your baby, if you just relax.

How can I relax with pregnancy and IBS and everything else!

  • Exercise – Back to the dreaded “E” word. Mild aerobic exercise can reduce stress levels.
  • Hypnosis – or self-hypnosis can be very relaxing. Some women even use hypnosis to get through delivery without drugs, or to relax with the drugs.
  • Yoga – If you’re up to it and your doctor clears it, you can try yoga for pregnant women. Yoga is very relaxing. There are special pregnancy yoga courses, and DVDs. Make sure your doctor okays this first though.
  • Meditation – sitting still and just focusing on your breath can be amazingly relaxing. It’s not that way for everyone though. Some people struggle. You don’t need any new struggles right now.
  • Join a maternity support group – Being around other people that you can explain your feelings to can be a tremendous support during a tough time.

Well ladies, that’s the best I can do, having never been pregnant myself. Remember to check in with your doctor frequently to make sure everythings is okay.

I wish you a safe and happy pregnancy and an easy delivery!!!

Find out more about chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation.

 

3 Comments

  1. Reply

    My ibs was manageable with diet and Excercise before I got pregnant. But since I got preganant my ibs is killing me and I’ve missed work and visited ED bd of excruciating pain I have. Never experienced this kind of stomach pain before… I’m still in my first trimester and I’m hoping it gets better by second trimester.

  2. Reply

    Yes, I have IBS symptoms during my fourth pregnancy and have never had any issues in the past (pregnant or not). My midwife, told me to eat a gluten-free diet and see if it cleared up and man…within a week I was normalized. I have never had any food sensitivities. I sure hope it goes away after I have the baby. I wonder if it will? I also wonder if this is any indication of the baby having a food sensitivity?

  3. Reply

    I have been pregnant 3 times, and each was the best 9 months of my life, because I had little-to-no IBS symptoms; which usually rule my life! It does seem strange, but I now that I have cut out sugar, dairy,and wheat, I find that my IBS is manageable at least. Thank you for your insight :)

    • Reply

      You’re quite welcome Heidi. Thanks for your information. It sure is a mystery. I’m glad you’re symptoms are more manageable now. All the best!

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