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Pregnancy and Diarrhea-Predominant IBS (IBS-D)

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Updated October 20, 2012

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

The management of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) is not easy under most circumstances, and is certainly complicated by pregnancy. You will need to work to find strategies that help to manage your symptoms without putting your baby at risk. The following suggestions will help you to get through a challenging nine months:

Eat Wisely

The safest way to try to manage your IBS-D symptoms while pregnant is through dietary modification. You will want to make sure to follow a well-rounded diet to ensure optimal nutrition for your developing baby. While doing so, keep in mind these basic guidelines:

  • Eat a low-fat diet, as fatty foods can stimulate intestinal contractions.

  • Avoid poorly digested sugars, such as lactose, fructose and sorbitol, if you tend to experience bloating along with diarrhea.

  • If you are experiencing excessive flatulence, minimize your intake of gassy foods.

Work Closely with Your Doctor

It is essential to speak with your obstetrician before taking any medication to treat your IBS-D symptoms, including over-the-counter products. Although Imodium is generally considered a safe product, there are some safety concerns for the developing fetus, particularly in the first trimester.

As for prescription medications for diarrhea, your doctor is in the best position to advise you about the safety record of the various options. Some medications may be okay if used infrequently; others are best avoided. Again, talk to your doctor.

Use Stress Management Options

If you haven't already tried psychotherapy as a treatment for your IBS-D, your pregnancy may be just the thing to get you motivated. Two types of therapy -- cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy -- have been shown to be effective in reducing IBS symptoms. The major advantage to these treatments is that you do not have to worry about any negative effects on your baby.

Stress management approaches offer an additional option: yoga and meditation are two ways to deal with stress, offering the potential benefit of easing your symptoms.

Essential Reading:

Sources:

Hasler, W. "The irritable bowel syndrome during pregnancy" Gastroenterology Clinics of North America 2003 32:385-406.

Heitkemper, M. "Pregnancy and Irritable Bowel Syndrome". International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder Fact Sheet. Accessed February 6, 2010.

Kallen, B., Nilsson, E. & Otterblad Olausson, P. “Maternal use of loperamide in early pregnancy and delivery outcome.” Acta Paediatrica 2008:541-545.

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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