13 ways to successfully deal with IBS during pregnancy

What helps IBS during pregnancy
Learn thirteen ways to successfully deal with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) during pregnancy to ease symptoms and keep your baby healthy.

Although irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in itself is a challenging disease, pregnancy can make the symptoms worse and treatment trickier.

With the right moves, it is possible to manage IBS during pregnancy, ease symptoms, and make you and your baby healthy and comfortable.

Thirteen ways to successfully deal with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) during pregnancy include:

  1. Eat small, frequent, well-balanced meals in moderate amounts and smaller portions
  2. Increase fiber intake (foods such as whole grains, barley, and fruits help water retention in the intestines, thus softening the stools and easy passing)
  3. Stay away from gassy foods such as beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts
  4. Add a prebiotic to your routine (these good bacteria can improve gut health)
  5. Use over-the-counter (OTC) constipation relievers (try stool softeners such as psyllium husk powder or wheat dextrin to add fiber and relieve constipation and avoid taking OTC medications without consulting your doctor)
  6. Drink plenty of fluids or water to keep yourself hydrated
  7. Stay active, exercise regularly, or go for a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes a day, which can aid in improving digestion
  8. Keep a track of IBS flare-ups and note down triggering foods or other factors to avoid them in future
  9. Get enough sleep to keep the body and mind calm
  10. Keep your body and mind relaxed (avoiding stress, anxiety, and negative emotions or thoughts plays a key role in staying away from or easing those annoying IBS symptoms during pregnancy)
  11. Go for calming therapies such as prenatal yoga or meditation that could help make the body and mind more relaxed and bring in positive thoughts
  12. Consult a dietician to identify food triggers and ways to improve your nutrition status
  13. Check with your doctor to see if it is a good idea to keep taking your regular IBS medications or a switch is needed until the delivery

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, recurrent gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating or gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

Three types of IBS include:

  1. IBS with constipation: Hard and lumpy stools
  2. IBS with diarrhea: Loose and watery stools
  3. IBS with mixed bowel habits: Fluctuating bowel habits—sometimes hard and lumpy stools while other times loose and watery movements

What causes IBS?

The exact reason for this disease is unknown. Researchers speculate a combination of factors could lead to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) including:

  • Brain-gut dysfunction: Problems with brain-gut interaction may affect the body’s functioning.
  • Dysmotility: Problems with gastrointestinal muscle contractions can affect the food movement through the bowel.
  • Abnormalities in the nerves within your gut: Certain abnormalities in the nerves in the gastrointestinal tract can result in disturbing IBS symptoms.
  • Genetics: Genes may play a role in some people being more likely to develop IBS.

Is IBS worse during pregnancy?

Most women face digestive challenges during those nine months of pregnancy, including nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, heartburn, flatulence, and bowel changes.

However, if a woman already has irritable bowel syndrome pre-pregnancy, her pregnancy could make the situation worse and might trigger gastrointestinal symptoms due to reasons that include:

  • Presence of iron and calcium in prenatal vitamins (makes constipation worse)
  • The physical pressure of the growing fetus on the intestines (changes the way the food moves through it)
  • Stress and anxiety about the upcoming (can aggravate the symptoms)
  • Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone (affects digestion and overall gut health)

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Can my IBS hurt my baby?

There is not much research and data available on the effects of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on pregnancy. However, it is speculated that although IBS can make women feel uncomfortable, with the right steps and adequate care, it is unlikely to affect the ongoing pregnancy or cause any problems for the baby.

In rare cases, your pregnancy can be at risk if IBS symptoms get out of control because:

  • Severe or chronic diarrhea can lead to dehydration causing serious issues such as preterm labor.
  • Severe constipation can negatively affect the pelvic tissues, muscles, and nerves.
  • In rare cases, the uterus may slip out of place leading to preterm contractions.
  • Women with IBS are at a high risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies.

Can pregnancy cause IBS to flare up?

Although not every pregnancy or every pregnant woman will exhibit all these symptoms, a few expecting mothers are lucky enough to avoid all those digestive upsets.

Certain foods, emotions, and situations can flare up the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Pregnancy is perhaps one of them, which can be a difficult time for the gut to deal with the new changes that the body is undergoing throughout nine months and even post-delivery.

Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone (sex hormones) during pregnancy may be one of the factors that affect the digestive tract and cause symptoms associated with IBS.

What foods trigger IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and severity can vary from person to person, but a few factors that are noted by the majority of people with IBS are called triggers or factors that put you at high risk including:

Dietary factors that trigger IBS-related constipation

  • White bread and cereals made with refined flour
  • Processed and packed foods such as chips, cookies, and pastries
  • Coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol
  • High-protein diets
  • Dairy products, especially cheese

Dietary factors that trigger IBS-related diarrhea

  • Excessive fiber intake
  • Chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, fructose, or sorbitol
  • Large and heavy meals
  • Fries, fatty and oily foods
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Dairy products, especially in people who have lactose intolerance (inability to digest the milk sugar lactose)
  • Foods that contain wheat for gluten-sensitive people (wheat allergy)

What are other risk factors that trigger IBS?

Risk factors of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) other than food include:

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Medically Reviewed on 3/29/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Stephanie Booth IBS during Pregnancy: What to Expect WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/ibs/features/what-to-expect-pregnant-have-ibs

Minesh Khatri IBS triggers and How to Avoid Them WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/ibs/ibs-triggers-prevention-strategies