IBS Symptoms During Pregnancy: What Can You Expect?
As if your body isn’t changing enough, some women have to deal with another problem during pregnancy – IBS symptoms. IBS, also known as irritable bowel syndrome, is characterized by bowels that are exquisitely sensitive. Although not considered a disease, irritable bowel syndrome can be a source of unpleasant symptoms that make pregnancy more challenging. If you have IBS, you may also be concerned about how having it will affect your pregnancy.
What is IBS?
IBS is a “functional” condition marked by symptoms involving the digestive tract, particularly the bowels. No one knows what exactly causes it but stress seems to play a role. People who have this syndrome have a digestive tract that’s unusually sensitive to stress.
IBS Is surprisingly common. In fact, about 10 to 15% of the population reporting symptoms at some point over a lifetime. IBS symptoms you might experience, if you have the disorder, include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, or alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. One caveat – don’t assume you have irritable bowel syndrome until you’ve been medically evaluated and other causes of your symptoms have been ruled out. Similar symptoms can arise from a variety of intestinal problems. IBS is mainly a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning other potential causes for the symptoms have been ruled out.
IBS During Pregnancy
If you were diagnosed with IBS before becoming pregnant, you may find your symptoms worsen during pregnancy. There’s some evidence that hormones influence irritable bowel syndrome, including some that your body produces more of when you’re pregnant. On the other hand, every woman is different. You may find that your IBS symptoms either don’t change or improve during pregnancy. So, don’t assume your symptoms will get worse, just be aware that they can.
Taming IBS Symptoms
There’s no cure for IBS but there are some things you can do to tame the symptoms. Some studies suggest that imbalances in gut bacteria are a factor in irritable bowel syndrome. Talk to your doctor about whether a probiotic would be right for you. Another way to get probiotics is to eat a serving of yogurt with active cultures every day.
Another approach, especially if you’re having mainly constipation, is to add more fiber to your diet. Be careful, though. Some foods high in fiber, particularly cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and beans, are rich in sugars called FODMAPs. If you’re sensitive to FODMAPs, eating these foods could make your IBS symptoms worse. Add more fiber to your diet, but avoid foods high in FODMAPs. You can find a list of these foods online.
Since stress seems to worsen IBS symptoms, your symptoms may improve once you find ways to better deal with stress. Self-hypnosis, meditation, and deep breathing are all approaches to relieving stress that may be helpful.