Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal condition that can leave people feeling frustrated and drained at the best of times, but when someone with IBS is expecting a child things can get extra messy.
Having irritable bowel syndrome means that a person either has regular diarrhea or the opposite affliction – constipation. Either way, during pregnancy this can be a messy ordeal because washroom visits are already increased due to frequent urination.
Once a person is pregnant the extra blood flowing in her body makes the kidney’s produce up to 25 percent more urine. Passing urine constantly can also be a sign of pressure on the woman’s bladder from her growing uterus. A pregnancy with IBS meanwhile could mean that the woman has to race to the washroom at times to avoid evacuating her bowels in her pants. Now, anyone who has been pregnant knows that running can sometimes lead to dribbling. Picture for a moment, a women with IBS diarrhea who has urine dribbling down her leg as she sprints to the toilet so that she doesn’t have a fecal accident. Now imagine her not getting there in time. Messy right?
For some people with irritable bowel, constipation is the main problem. So what makes this messy? When a woman is pregnant often her bowel muscles become relaxed and food stays in the digestive tract longer. As a result she gets constipated. What a woman can end up with is double trouble going number two. In a desperate attempt to void, some pregnant women push too hard thus tearing themselves and bleeding. Another messy situation!
These sound like no win scenarios but there is a way to get through pregnancy with irritable bowels without all the stress described above.
Take a look at the suggestions below. They’ve helped many women avoid some of the mess associated with IBS during pregnancy:
15 Diet Makes Difference
Eating fiber-rich foods is good for everyone, but during pregnancy it can be even more important. Fiber can help eliminate the waste in a person who suffers from constipation from IBS. Whole-grain cereals and breads; legumes, such as peas and beans; fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as dried fruits are good options. Nutritionists insist that green vegetables and juicy green kiwi are effective, natural laxatives.
They say women should try to consume about 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day. If constipation is the issue, eliminating refined grains, including white rice and pasta is highly recommended. On the other hand, if a woman is suffering from diarrhea due to IBS while she is pregnant, she will have to be careful about the amount of fiber she eats because it will aggravate her symptoms and lead to further diarrhea. Severe diarrhea becomes a concern when pregnant because it could mean that the baby is not getting the nutrients he or she needs from the mother.
14 Avoid Over-eating
Many people believe that when they are pregnant they can relax their eating habits. After all, they are now “eating for two”. New studies suggest that eating too much when pregnant can alter the digestive system making it harder to lose weight once baby arrives. The other problem is that is overtaxes the digestive tract, which can lead to food blockages and you guessed it, constipation.
Doctors suggest that women who are already prone to gas and bloating consider eating six mini-meals a day as opposed to three large ones. It is interesting to note that research does indicate that “eating for two” during pregnancy is not necessary. When a woman eats what she needs and consumes healthy, nutritious foods, the baby will be able to get what he or she requires as well. Of course all of this doesn’t mean that you can’t cave to the odd craving once-in-a-while.
13 Drink Up
It’s important to stay hydrated when pregnant and eight full glasses of fluids, such as water, fruit juice, vegetable juice or even broth each day can help solids move through the digestive system and soften stools so they can pass easier. Prune juice is considered a mild laxative, but some people find that it takes them from one extreme to another so starting with a small amount of prune juice and then increasing it is the best approach. Prune juice isn’t everyone’s favorite, but it can be mixed with other juices or added into a smoothie. Some women find that warm liquids work better than cold. For example, hot water and lemon have been known to help some pregnant women who struggle with IBS constipation.
Women should try to avoid over-the-counter laxatives since many may not be safe while carrying a baby. When the going gets really tough, nutritionists and dieticians can offer up good fluid suggestions.
12 Review Supplements and Medications
There are many medications that come with side effects and unfortunately one common side effect with certain drugs is that they can cause constipation. If a woman is on any medications she should conduct a careful review of the possible side effects and note when she started having trouble with her bowel movements. This will help the doctor determine whether on not it is the medication that is contributing to the problem.
At the same time, supplements should also be looked at. They too can cause constipation. Now, this is where it can get a little tricky because women are specifically administered supplements during pregnancy because it is good for their bodies. For example, iron supplements and prenatal vitamins are commonly recommended to those who are pregnant. Thankfully, doctors can help adjust the dosage or in some cases will suggest a slow-release iron supplement, which can improve the problem.
Whether a woman has constipation or diarrhea from IBS she should be speaking to a doctor about any medications or supplements she is thinking about taking.
11 Be Active
Exercising regularly helps us digest food better so when a woman is pregnant she needs to continue to be active. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists outlines the type of exercise pregnant women should engage in. For instance, it is suggested they aim for 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each day right up until the baby arrives. Most doctors encourage their pregnant patients to stick to their usual workouts but it is particularly important for those who are suffering form gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. They say that those who are not used to a specific exercise routine can benefit from daily walks or other heart-pumping activity that is done on a daily basis. Any woman who is concerned about exercise with IBS should simply discuss it with her doctor first. Unless there is an underlying health issue, chances are the doctor will give the green light for some sort of exercise routine -and every little bit helps when a person is struggling with IBS.
10 Manage Stress
Most research seems to indicate that stress does not cause irritable bowel syndrome. However, it does suggest that IBS and stress have a connection. Medical scientists believe a few different theories about how stress and anxiety could be involved. One theory is that for some reason people who suffer from IBS are just more sensitive to stress and lets face it, when someone is anticipating the arrival of a baby, especially if it is their first child, there is going to be a little bit of anxiety. Many new mothers are concerned about their well-being and the baby’s health. There are also people who worry about whether or not they will make good parents. Another theory is that stress makes the mind more aware of spasms in the body. Irritable bowel syndrome can cause abdominal spasms. Lastly, IBS is triggered by our immune system, which is affected by stress. Although it can be easier said than done, pregnant women with IBS should really try to lower their stress. Taking time out of a busy day to meditate, just sit and listen to music or participate in gentle stretching can often be helpful. Psychologists say it is also important to talk about stressors so if a pregnancy is making someone anxious they should discuss their anxiety with their partner or even a doctor.
9 Keep A Food Journal
Many people find that certain foods trigger their IBS and those food triggers can change when a woman becomes pregnant. Hormones and blood flow fluctuation are believed to be the reasons for the changes. This means that some foods that a person with IBS find tolerable while not pregnant actually aggravate her bowel when she is pregnant. Many doctors suggest keeping a food journal to track foods that are consumed and how they make a person feel, is a good approach. After a while when a woman flips through the pages of her journal she will be able to notice a connection between certain foods and her IBS acting up. She can then eliminate those foods from her diet. If a person doesn’t record the food they eat, it can be pretty difficult to remember what was consumed before each IBS flare-up. Doctors remind patients that when keeping a food journal you have to include everything that goes in the mouth, including drinks and even medications, or supplements.
8 Consider Hypnosis
According the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, hypnosis has been found to be an effective IBS treatment tool. Hypnotherapy for IBS involves a progressive type of relaxation and suggestions of soothing imagery that focus on the patient’s specific symptoms. Women with IBS who have participated in hypnotherapy have reported improvements in abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and general well being.
Irritable bowel syndrome hypnosis can be performed one-on-one or some experts also offer group sessions. Hypnosis doesn’t work for everyone. Research shows that about 20-25 percent of those who have tried it failed to see any results. The good news is that there are other options to gain relief if this tool doesn’t seem to work. When a woman is considering hypnosis she needs to do her homework. There are those who do hypnosis, but are not qualified to treat medical problems. It’s important to find someone who is qualified.
7 Schedule Bathroom Visits
We are training our bodies to act a certain way all the time and often we don’t even realize it. One example is training our bodies to wake up. Sure, most of us set alarm clocks so we aren’t late for work, but isn’t it amazing how we tend to wake up on our days off even though we haven’t set that alarm? We also schedule our meals for certain times, which our bodies become accustomed to.
Now, many gastrointestinal experts say we can also train our bodies to go to the washroom at certain times. It sounds odd, but in IBS constipation cases, doctors do suggest that people try to relieve their bowels at certain specific times to train the body to go. In the beginning someone may be just sitting there with no results, except for a little liquid or mucus, but over time the person may be surprised to find that her body learns that it is time to pass a stool.
6 Avoid Certain Foods
Although everyone is different when it comes to food tolerance, there are certain foods that appear to stand out when it comes to aggravating IBS. Milk is one of the worst because it contains fat and can trigger diarrhea. Some pregnant women may find that they have to switch to low-fat or non-dairy milk to keep the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome at bay. Fried foods are another common trigger for many who suffer from IBS. The high fat content can be particularly hard on some women.
Coffee is another culprit since it has a stimulating impact on the intestines and can lead to diarrhea. Coffee, tea or any other beverages that contain caffeine are difficult for many people with IBS to consume. It is not always the case, but some people with IBS complain about spicy foods as well. When a pregnant woman has IBS and eats spicy food is can be a double hit of discomfort because the acid builds up in the digestive tract, which can cause both reflux and diarrhea.
5 Add Probiotics
Probiotics have strains of living bacteria in them that are similar to the healthy bacteria that are found in our digestive systems. Research shows that probiotics may boost healthy bacteria in our bodies to help fight germs in our digestive tracts. This beneficial bacteria (probiotics) can be found in yogurt, unpasteurized sauerkraut, miso soup, Gouda cheese, kefir milk, sourdough bread, naturally fermented sour pickles, and probiotic supplements.
No one knows for sure why probiotics are helpful, but some research indicates that probiotic supplements, particularly those with the bacterium called, bifidobacterium infantis, can alleviate symptoms of IBS, including bloating, abdominal pain, as well as irregular bowel movements. It is not unusual for probiotics like bifdobacteria to be used in situations where a disease might be killing off normal bacteria. Our bodies need normal bacteria to break down food, take in nutrients and prevent bad bacteria from taking over. When considering probiotics, it is advisable to talk to a doctor.
4 Take a Sitz Bath
Pregnant women with IBS can consider taking a sitz bath. A warm sitz bath is a type of bath where a person sits in a warm water or saline solution in a tub soaked up to the hips. The abdomen and pelvic area are immersed in water and can help in two respects: it can relieve the pain and discomfort associated with fissures, which are cuts and tears that a person may get as a result of pushing too hard in an attempt to pass a stool. The warm water can also have an impact on the intestinal system, causing relaxation and thus making it easier for someone who suffers from IBS constipation to be able to have a bowel movement. Many pregnant women have reported that sitz not only assists with their IBS symptoms, but helps ease aches and pains, such as back pain, associated with carrying a baby.
3 Use Ointments
Severe constipation can’t only be uncomfortable for pregnant women it can lead to further problems, such as deep anal tears. Medically referred to as fissures, sometimes the problem goes unnoticed, but in other cases, the tears can be itchy or painful. Some women complain that it “hurts to sit down”. There is no need to suffer, doctors can prescribe safe to use ointments that sooth the sore, inflamed area and help the cuts heal quicker.
There are some instances where fissures are so severe that surgery is required; however, in the majority of cases, a warm bath, less straining and the use of ointments are all it takes to heal the wounds. Obviously, the most desired approach is to not be constipated in the first place. That’s where some of the other suggestions in this article come in. If one potential fix doesn’t work then another can be tried and hopefully before long, going to the washroom won’t be so painful.
2 Try Acupuncture
The traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture follows the belief that our bodies are a complex physical, mental and spiritual system that can fluctuate between health and illness as flow of energy changes. Many believe that imbalances in the natural energy flow are what lead to diseases. Acupuncture helps improve the flow of energy, thus restoring the proper functioning of nerves, muscles, glands and organs in the human body. Acupuncture has been used successfully on many people who have irritable bowel syndrome.
Some studies show that it changes how the intestinal tract moves. During a treatment a trained acupuncturist uses single-use, sterile needles to pinpoint specific systems in the body. Sometimes a person will feel a warm or tingling sensation, but there should be no pain. Many of these acupuncture sessions last only 5-10 minutes, but once a person has had 6 to 10 sessions, they may notice relief of their symptoms. Most doctors agree that acupuncture is perfectly safe when a person is pregnant.
1 Consult A Specialist
There are many ways to manage irritable bowel syndrome when pregnant. Some women have to try a few different approaches before they are able to get those messy bathroom issues under control. Of course, there are situations that are extreme and no matter what a woman does, she still has difficulty with either diarrhea or constipation, along with other IBS symptoms. If someone is pregnant and grappling with IBS it is important to find comfort. The symptoms can be draining at a time when a woman’s energy is already being taxed. For some moms-to-be, IBS further aggravates the ability to get a good night’s sleep or enjoy a meal. When all else fails, consulting with a specialist who is familiar with the digestive system, the latest IBS research, as well as pregnancy, can be a huge relief both physically and mentally. A general practitioner is usually the person who can direct a woman to a qualified specialist.
Make no mistake - having irritable bowel syndrome can be a drag for anyone. When it is a pregnant person it can be particularly challenging and distressing. Since IBS is so common, many communities have multiple resources for sufferers to turn to in order to learn more about coping. For example, in the United States, the IBS Network supports people living with the syndrome. They have an information centre, support groups, a self-care program, and an online forum. Between the many resources available and the suggestions outlined here, women with IBS do have a chance to make their pregnancy less chaotic.