I’ve lived with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for over two decades. And while it's been difficult at every stage of my life, for various reasons, having IBS while pregnant was by far the most taxing. Growing another human being in your body and enduing a slew of emotional stages with varying degrees of intensity seems somewhat synonymous, but those emotional stages are very, very different when you're also living with IBS.
IBS is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder, with approximately one in 10 people afflicted, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Still, IBS can make someone feel incredibly isolated and alone. And while scientists with the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine & Digestive Center report that people with IBS who are pregnant can manage their symptoms with exercise, stress reduction, and changes in diet, I know how difficult it is to deal with IBS while also growing at least one human inside your body; a body that can feel mean-spirited in its unpredictability.
As a young kid, having IBS was difficult because I was too embarrassed to discuss my symptoms at sleepovers or in school. As a teenager it was difficult because, I mean, there’s nothing "hip" or "cool" about your life revolving around what’s going on with your large intestine. And as an adult it was (and is) difficult because the symptoms of IBS can interfere with your life in ways that impact your job, your relationships, and your self-esteem. But when I was pregnant every day — no, every moment — I struggled to make it through the following emotional stages. If you, too, are managing a pregnancy and IBS simultaneously, know that you're not alone and you're probably going through one of the following stages, too: