Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can complicate most every aspect of your life, but does it impact your fertility as well? If you’re ready to start a family, you might be wondering: Can you get pregnant with IBS? While the relationship between fertility and IBS is still being studied, experts do have some insight, and it’s mostly positive for those who are ready for a baby.
A common disorder of the large intestine, IBS is a chronic condition that can cause issues with abdominal pain, cramping, gas, constipation, and diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic. In general, however, "IBS does not interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant," Ellen Meredith Stein, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology for Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells Romper. However, everyone's experience with fertility is different. "Healthy women with IBS likely do not have issues with fertility," Kecia Gaither, M.D. tells Romper. However, prior surgeries, disease activity, and any medication you might be taking to manage your symptoms must be taken into consideration, so it's important to have a full discussion about your health with a doctor. "That answer is predicated on a case by case basis — not just a 'one size fits all' answer," says Dr. Gaither.
The medication piece is crucial, because while Dr. Stein says medications are not known to affect fertility, some of the medications used to treat IBS aren't safe to use during pregnancy, as VeryWell Health reported. (For example, there have been "mixed research results" regarding whether or not Imodium, an over-the-counter drug used to treat diarrhea, can negatively affect a growing fetus.) You may need to stop using these meds during the course of your pregnancy. How can you manage IBS in the meantime? Well, some people find that pregnancy itself helps alleviate IBS symptoms, as Dr. Stein explains. In addition, changes to your eating habits and lifestyle, such as the addition of more fibrous foods in your meals, may help manage IBS as well, according to the Mayo Clinic. Again, IBS is a complex condition that affects each person a little differently, so it's important to develop a personalized management plan with your doctor. For the majority of people, however, IBS itself does not present a significant roadblock to pregnancy.
Kecia Gaither, M.D., MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln