IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a chronic intestinal disorder, not a disease. The intestines of a person with IBS do not function properly which can lead to many symptoms. The most common include diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain. It is estimated that IBS affects as many as 20% of Americans, and affects women three times greater than it does men.
Depending on the types of symptoms a woman has, and the severity of her IBS, this disorder can be both physically and psychologically upsetting and cause plenty of anxiety. Some women worry that having IBS will affect their ability to become pregnant or cause problems during pregnancy.
Irritable bowel syndrome does not affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, nor does it make her infertile. However, during pregnancy, IBS symptoms are generally worse than normal due to the hormonal changes a woman’s body experiences.
The following is a breakdown of what a woman with IBS can expect during pregnancy, and the different treatments she can try to help control symptoms.
First trimester – During this period, most women don’t feel the hormonal effects on their body, because they are too busy coping with morning sickness. At this time, IBS virtually disappears
Second trimester – As hormonal change becomes more apparent, IBS will usually strike. Women with irritable bowel syndrome will usually experience a stronger version of the symptoms they usually have.
Third trimester – Just as in the second trimester, IBS symptoms will continue due to hormonal changes. However, in many women, the symptom that is experienced the most is constipation, especially during the 8th month.
The reason constipation is the most common symptom is because pregnancy causes the levels of the progesterone hormone to rise. This hormone causes muscles to relax, which can result in the digestive system slowing down. Other reasons why constipation occurs are from lack of exercise, diet change, and the physical pressure of the baby on the bowel. Thus, even pregnant women who don’t have IBS are prone to constipation.
To help with constipation and other IBS symptoms during pregnancy, some women take medications. Not all medications that may be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome are safe for pregnancy. Therefore, you should discuss medical treatment with your doctor before taking any drug. However, the following is a list of medications that are usually safe to take during pregnancy:
o Acetaminophen (IE Tylenol) – helps with pain and discomfort
o Bentyl/Dicyclomine – prevents muscles spasms in the stomach and bladder and helps to relax them. It also reduces the production of stomach acid.
o Diclectin – helps with morning sickness
o Simethicone – helps to alleviate gas in the intestinal tract.
Medications are not the only answer when it comes to helping pregnant women treat their IBS symptoms. Alternative treatments include:
o Drinking plenty of water – prevents dehydration and helps with digestion
o Regular and safe pregnancy exercises – helps aid in digestion and reduces stress
o Sufficient sleep – reduces stress
o High fiber diet – Helps move slow bowels. This includes foods such as fruit, vegetables, and high fiber cereals. Note: keep in mind that if your IBS symptoms occur because of certain fiber foods, don’t include these as apart of your diet.
o Soluble fiber supplements – may help with diarrhea and constipation
o Ginger tea – Ginger tea can help treat morning sickness
o Hypnosis – This psychological treatment can be used to individually treat the symptoms a woman is experiencing.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways a pregnant woman can deal with IBS. The trick is to know what treatments work best, and incorporate them into a healthy and active lifestyle.