Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS or spastic colon) is defined as a bowel disorder that manifests itself in symptoms such as chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and disruption of bowel movements without any detectable organic cause.
The combination of IBS and pregnancy does not always take a predictable course – while many women find that they experience IBS symptoms for the first time during pregnancy, others who routinely suffer from the symptoms, find their IBS to have gone into remission for the duration of their pregnancy.
With pregnancy seeming to impact practically all the systems of the body, so is the connection between IBS and pregnancy.
Consider the fact that one third of pregnant women experience more frequent bowel movements than normal and similar proportion experiences constipation.
So it isn’t necessarily the IBS and pregnancy combination that is responsible; rather it is the hormonal upheavals experienced by a pregnant woman that could be responsible for the various gastrointestinal changes/disturbances.
There has been relatively less research done on the subject of IBS and pregnancy, however one survey was able to demonstrate that pregnancy seemed to have a positive impact on women who suffer from IBS – while half the respondents claimed that their IBS symptoms were seen to improve during pregnancy, about a fifth of the those who answered the survey claimed that their symptoms got worse with pregnancy.
For IBS and pregnancy, a conservative treatment is usually recommended –
- A healthy diet is the key to managing IBS and pregnancy. It is important to indentify the foods that bring on an IBS attack and avoid them. At the same time a doctor or nutritionist should be consulted to find out what to eat and what to cut out so that mother and baby receive the nutrition required. If required, dietary changes and modifications may be made during pregnancy.
- Sufficient water intake is also an important factor.
- Women who exercise regularly find that they are able to manage their IBS and pregnancy effectively, since exercise helps the bowel function normally.
- Foods and supplements such as peppermint, ginger, and other natural substances are also thought to help control IBS symptoms in pregnancy.
- Soluble fiber supplements are also seen to help with IBS symptoms.
- Alternative remedies such as biofeedback and hypnosis particularly directed towards the gut or bowel is also thought to help with IBS during pregnancy.
- It is not clearly understood what medication is suitable for IBS and pregnancy, though Dicyclomine is generally thought to be safe.