Today we are talking about IBS and pregnancy! Just incase IBS wasn’t crap enough for you to live through – pregnancy is about to make it a whole lot worse.
Aren’t we lucky as women hey?!
Any woman going through pregnancy is highly unlikely to make it through 9 months with no digestive symptoms. So if you already have IBS, then you will be in for a little bit of a rough ride.
This post gives you some top tips to help combat some of the IBS and pregnancy issues.
1. Uncontrollable Emotions
Due to fatigue, changes in hormones and lack of sleep – you will feel ’emotional’ at times (1). These emotions will directly impact your gut through the gut-brain axis.
If this is an ongoing problem please do not hesitate to speak to your doctor who will be able to guide you on coping mechanisms.
2. Lack of Exercise
Some women are hesitant to exercise during pregnancy, they are worried it will damage their growing baby. But exercise during pregnancy is really important and provides many health benefits.
Exercise has also directly been proven to help with the management of IBS (2).
You can read more about exercise and gut health here.
What type and intensity of exercise you do will depend on your own health, so if in doubt ask your doctor.
In general, most women will manage at least 30 minutes of gentle exercise like walking or swimming.
3. Iron Supplements
Iron supplements can lead to constipation (3). If your doctor has prescribed these for you it will be because of low levels in your blood. Simply not taking the supplement could be dangerous for your pregnancy so do not do this!
Instead, speak to your doctor about your digestive symptoms as they may be able to prescribe laxatives to counteract the iron’s affect.
Also do not forget to look at your own diet. If you can increase the levels of iron in your own diet, then coming off those supplements will happen a lot quicker.
4. Sleeping Patterns
Both poor quality and quantity of sleep have been shown to negatively impact digestive health.
78% of women report more disturbed sleep when they are pregnant compared to other times (4).
You may be experiencing difficulty sleeping due to emotions and anxiety about labor, delivery and even becoming a new mum.
The sleep council have some excellent guidance on managing sleeping problems for pregnant women. Click here to access their advice.
During pregnancy your progesterone hormone levels will increase. This will lead to you feeling fatigued, especially in your first trimester (4).
This part of pregnancy and IBS are linked. When you are fatigued, you are less likely to exercise, spend time cooking balanced meals and may feel low in mood. All of these elements will worsen your IBS symptoms.
To try to combat this;
- Prioritise sleep
- Eat regular meals
- Stay hydrated
6. ‘Eating For 2’
When you are pregnant it is important that you eat a varied diet to provide for you and your growing baby. But the idea that you need to ‘eat for 2’ is not correct.
According to a survey by Tesco, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation, 85% of women do not know how many calories they need to consume. Even worse, 63% of pregnant women said that they feel pressured to eat more.
Increasing your portion sizes will mean that your body has more food to digest. Part of this process will create more gas and you find yourself feeling bloated.
Now, I am not saying that you need a strict calorie controlled diet as that would be really inappropriate. But it is important to note that your body doesn’t need any more calories till the 3rd trimester.
During your third trimester you need around 200 extra calories per day (5). Try to add this in using snacks so that your body doesn’t have more to digest at meal times.
Your IBS will likely get worse during pregnancy due to hormones, emotions, iron supplements and fatigue. You may also be following incorrect advice around eating or exercise.
While we can not 100% guarantee a symptom free pregnancy, there are many ways to combat these issues to help you manage your IBS during pregnancy.