Pregnant with Bowel Trouble, But It's Ok

Bowel disorders in 3 out of 4 pregnant women have little effect on life quality

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D

(RxWiki News) Women who plan on becoming pregnant can also plan for bodily changes in other areas, including bowel movements, or lack there of. Could these changes impact a pregnant woman's quality of life?

While three out of four women experience constipation, diarrhea or some other bowel disorder during pregnancy, such disorders only minimally affected pregnant women's quality of life, according to new research presented at a conference.

Though quality of life still remained high, the findings revealed factors that could negatively affect a pregnant women's body image.

"Be prepared for constipation during pregnancy."

Scott Graziano, MD, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Illinois, and Payton Johnson, a third year medical student at Stritch, looked at the range of functional bowel disorders in pregnant women and how those disorders impacted their lifestyle.

The study included 104 pregnant women who were in their first trimester. They were surveyed on their overall bowel function and quality of life at the start of the study.

About two-thirds of the participants were surveyed again during their third trimester.

Bowel function questions covered constipation, diarrhea, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.

To assess quality of life, the researchers asked participants to report whether bowel problems made life less enjoyable or made them feel embarrassed, angry, depressed, isolated or vulnerable. This survey scored participants' quality of life on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the smallest possible impact on quality of life because of bowel problems.

The researchers found that 75 percent of the first trimester patients had one or more functional bowel disorders.

The women still reported a highly functional quality of life status, at 94.9 points out of 100.

Constipation and bloating on their own were factors that significantly affected women's overall quality of life. Constipation lowered the score by 4.4 points and bloating reduced the score by 4 points.

And for each functional bowel disorder, women's scores in body image, health worry and food avoidance were lower compared with other areas.

"While overall quality-of-life measures are highly rated, constipation and bloating appear to negatively affect status, specifically body image," the researchers wrote in their report.

Bowel problems minimally impact pregnant women's quality of life because they have learned to expect the problems during pregnancy and could better tolerate them, according to Dr. Graziano.

Vitamins and supplements that women take while pregnant can cause constipation, he said in a press release.

The study was presented at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 61st Annual Clinical Meeting in New Orleans. The findings have not yet been peer-reviewed.

The authors did not declare any conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2013
Last Updated:
August 22, 2013