IBS is a common and quite frustrating condition which causes bloating, stomach pains, and gastric distress. Some people suffer from constipation, while others suffer from diarrhea as a result of IBS. The condition affects around 15 percent of the population and usually surfaces when a person is a young adult. Coping with IBS while pregnant is something that many women worry about, and it can be quite tricky to manage the condition alongside other pregnancy-related issues.
IBS and Pregnancy Explained
Doctors are not sure what exactly causes IBS. Unlike IBD, which is clearly a result of damage or inflammation in the intestines, IBS does not have a clear cause. This makes the issue of IBS and pregnancy confusing. It could be that hormonal changes impact upon the functioning of the digestive tract, for example, although the link between pregnancy and IBS is something that doctors are not fully versed in.
Interestingly, some women who have IBS find that pregnancy gives them some respite and that they are symptom-free for a while. Others find that their symptoms get worse. This can be compounded by the fact that even without IBS, many pregnant women find they are more prone to constipation, while some experience loose stools. This makes it hard to tell whether the symptoms are IBS-related, or just a simple side-effect of being pregnant.
Managing IBS During Pregnancy
Given that there are so many grey areas with the link between IBS and pregnancy, management of the condition is something of an art, not a science. It’s important to remember that not all IBS medications are safe to use during pregnancy, so if you have already been diagnosed with IBS you should seek advice from your doctor. You may need to stop taking medication or change to a different type.
There are a few steps that you can take to manage your symptoms, and theses are good advice for any pregnant woman, regardless of whether they have IBS or not:
– Eat small, frequent meals instead of a few larger meals
– Drink lots of water
– Avoid caffeinated beverages
– Avoid alcohol
– Limit your intake of fatty or greasy foods
– Try to avoid stressful situations
– Gradually increase your fiber intake, and experiment with both soluble and insoluble fiber
– Talk to your doctor about a low FODMAP diet (do not try this diet while pregnant without seeking advice from a doctor first)
– Talk to your doctor about introducing a small amount of probiotics into your diet (again, seek advice before taking probiotics, and avoid fermented foods, especially if you aren’t someone who normally eats them)
– Get regular, gentle exercise
Pregnancy is always going to be a difficult time in terms of causing changes to your body, and IBS can make it harder to cope with, but there are things that you can do to reduce your symptoms and if you take good care of yourself you can remain healthy during pregnancy.
Being aware of your condition, and paying attention to how certain foods make your body feel will help you to stay in control. You will need to make an effort to ensure that you get all of the nutrients that you need to ensure that you stay fit and healthy during pregnancy and that your baby has the best start in life. It can be hard to do this when you are worried about avoiding certain foods because of how they affect your digestive system, but it is possible to eat a varied diet even with IBS.
If you suffer from IBS and are planning on having a baby, talk to your doctor before you start trying to conceive so that you can come up with a management plan for your symptoms. While it is not possible to anticipate how your body will respond to pregnancy, being aware of what may happen is half the battle. Many women find that pregnancy actually offers them some respite from their symptoms, and that they enjoy a smooth and easy pregnancy, so try not to worry too much! Whatever does happen, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and lots of water come together to be the recipe for a happy healthy baby, and hopefully a happy mom too.