Miscarriages are devastating. Whether you’re just a couple of weeks pregnant or a few months in, the emotional pain from losing a pregnancy is real and deep. I know this because I’ve had miscarriages, and losing a pregnancy leaves you with a sense of loss and wondering why. You want to know exactly what happened so you can understand and explain it to yourself, but so many things can factor into a miscarriage. For those who suffer from IBS, it can be even more traumatizing. But can IBS cause a miscarriage? Whether you’re in search of some answers about your miscarriage or if you’re pregnant and worried about miscarrying due to your IBS, these experts can help.
According to reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Edward Marut at the Fertility Center of Illinois, “IBS itself is not a reason for a miscarriage." He tells Romper, "If IBS effects are severe and cause dehydration and weight loss, the stress of the illness may reduce the probability of conception.” So IBS may affect your ability to get pregnant, but shouldn’t be a factor in whether you lose a pregnancy. However, according to a study conducted at the University of Manchester in England and The University College Cork in Ireland, women who suffer from IBS had an increased risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, or delivering a stillborn. While the actual risk increase is very small, the risk for miscarriage in this study was determined to be “moderate” with 6.6 percent of 100,000 pregnant subjects suffering a miscarriage as opposed to 0.22 percent delivering a stillborn. It’s important to keep in mind that the study also noted that “additional factors, such as smoking, depression, and further comorbidities, could have contributed to the increased miscarriage risk for women with IBS.”
But if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant and suffer from IBS, what are some things you can do to help yourself and the development of your baby? Dr. Marut says that you can control the “effects of IBS on the body by staying hydrated, being well nourished, and using safe medications that can help control symptoms.” He says that using probiotics are also a safe way to help some symptoms of IBS, as well as “bulk stool softeners” for treating constipation, and he recommends drinking sports drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte to help balance electrolytes. These tips are important for pregnant women suffering from IBS because symptoms like “diarrhea may improve, and constipation may worsen due to the high levels of progesterone” during pregnancy.
Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, the director of fertility preservation at Fertility Centers of Illinois agrees, explaining to Romper in an email, “In some women, IBS can worsen as a result of hormone fluctuations. This can include the time around menses and potentially during pregnancy. Pregnancy itself can increase the incidence of constipation and the iron present in prenatal vitamins can also worsen constipation. This can make pregnancy more uncomfortable for some women with IBS.” Some advice for women who are struggling is to ask your doctor for a prenatal vitamin that’s gentle on the tummy or “only take folic acid, the most important component of prenatal vitamins, and avoid the iron.” Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron also says that eating a “high-fiber diet, drinking lots of fluids, and taking a probiotic can be of help.” And don’t forget to avoid foods that have triggered your IBS in the past.
If you’re still unsure about your diet, check in with a nutritionist who can help you navigate the best food for you and your baby. But feel confident in the fact that your IBS doesn't mean your pregnancy is considered high risk or in immediate danger. Talk to your doctor, and ask for extra help controlling your IBS when you need it — it can make a big difference in your pregnancy.