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Pregnancy and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Does pregnancy exacerbate gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in women with functional bowel disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) specifically? This question is relevant for a number of reasons. First, women of reproductive age represent a significant portion of patients with IBS. Second, there is evidence that reproductive cycling (i.e., menstrual cycle) influences symptom reports and bowel transit. This suggests that ovarian hormones, which are elevated in pregnancy, may contribute to GI symptoms. Third, little is known about effective treatment strategies for pregnant women with IBS. This report is intended to address what is known about the potential role of pregnancy in the symptoms of IBS.

Topics: Fact Sheet, Gender, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

About the Author

  • Margaret M. Heitkemper, RN, PhD

    Professor of Nursing and Medicine, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing & Health Systems, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

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