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Irritable bowel syndrome and pregnancy: What to expect

0 2 years ago

Approximately 2 in 3 people with IBS are female. Doctors most often diagnose IBS in females of childbearing age.

Pregnancy hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, may contribute to the severity of IBS symptoms. Changes to a pregnant person’s body may also alter bowel patterns.

This article discusses what pregnant people with IBS can expect and its effect on pregnancy. It also explores how a pregnant person can manage IBS symptoms.

Overview of IBS

IBS is a persistent and recurring condition that affects the gut. It is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain and bowel changes.

Symptoms vary from person to person. Common symptoms may include:

What to expect when pregnant

Approximately 75%

of females report having one or more functional bowel disorders during their first trimester.

Expecting females are prone to a range of GI symptoms, similar or relating to IBS, due to the increase in estrogen and progesterone when pregnant, including nausea and vomiting and heartburn.

Does pregnancy interfere with IBS?

Pregnancy and IBS symptoms tend to overlap. High progesterone slows down motility, worsening constipation. It also affects sphincter function, leading to gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn. The changes in the pelvic floor due to the growing fetus and the increased abdominal pressure can also affect bowel movements in IBS.

Pregnant people may take medications for vomiting (antiemetics), such as for morning sickness. They may also take iron supplements to help meet the demands of extra blood volume in pregnancy. However, these types of drugs can worsen constipation.

Magnesium sulfate, a drug to treat preeclampsia and premature labor, can also cause constipation.


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