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IBS Symptoms in Women

Ten Intriguing Findings

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Updated July 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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IBS can be different in women. It has long been known that there are gender differences with IBS, as the disorder affects significantly more women than men. As researchers attempt to figure out why this is so, they have turned their attention to all aspects of women's health. The following is a quick overview of the most significant findings from research focused on IBS symptoms in women:

1. You are not imagining things -- it is common for IBS symptoms to be affected by your menstrual cycle.

2. For many women, pregnancy results in an improvement in IBS symptoms.

3. Similarly, many women experience a decrease in IBS symptoms following menopause.

4. Women with IBS have a higher risk of being diagnosed with endometriosis.

5. Women with IBS are estimated to be at significantly higher risk to undergo a hysterectomy.

6. Although the hormones estrogen and progesterone are linked with GI symptoms, neither birth control pills nor hormone replacement therapy have been found to have any effect on IBS symptoms.

7. A significantly high percentage of women with IBS have a history of being a victim of sexual or severe physical abuse.

8. Women who suffer from IBS have more difficulty relaxing and enjoying sex, but are not at higher risk for having problems with sex drive or ability to achieve orgasm.

9. Women with IBS have a higher risk of suffering from urinary urgency, but they are not necessarily at higher risk for urinary incontinence.

10. Women with IBS are also more likely to complain of pelvic organ prolapse symptoms.

Sources:

Palsson, O., Whitehead, W., Turner, M., van Tilburg, M. & Kanazawa, M. "Results of a National Survey on the Effects of Changes in Female Sex Hormones on Irritable Bowel Syndrome" The UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders. Accessed February 5, 2010.

Wang, et.al. "Pelvic floor disorders and quality of life in women with self-reported irritable bowel syndrome" Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2010 31:424-431.

"Women and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)" The UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders. Accessed February 5, 2010

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

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