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irritable bowel syndrome and pregnancy

I first began to hear that IBS symptoms may be affected by getting pregnant when female sufferers starting writing in to IBS Tales with their pregnancy stories. There seem to be a lot of different experiences, with some women finding that their IBS is made worse, and others that a pregnancy actually improves their symptoms, so I decided to start collecting stories from women who had experienced this situation.

The pregnancy tale of...Stacy

I have suffered with IBS with diarrhea for the past 10 years. I've controlled it through my diet and decreasing stress through exercise. When I do have an attack I use Imodium but then have to deal with the constipation for the days following.

Now I am 38 years old and pregnant with twins. During the first trimester of my pregnancy I did not have any IBS attacks. At 22 weeks it returned and caused me to get dehydrated to the point that I could hardly lift my head off the pillow. I couldn't keep enough fluid in my body. The dehydration landed me in the hospital for two weeks with contractions and struggling to find a balance between IBS diarrhea and constipation from medication and pregnancy.

I was finally sent home on strict bed rest with medication. About every two weeks I have IBS attacks and I take an Imodium (allowed during pregnancy) and drink plenty of water. The Imodium puts the breaks on the IBS and allows me to stay hydrated. I'm currently 25 weeks and managing, but scared to death that IBS will cause me to go into pre-term labor. IBS didn't stop me from getting pregnant but it has contributed to a difficult last trimester.

The pregnancy tale of...Claire

I live in the UK, and have suffered from IBS since I was about 12. It started really when I began high school, and had to ride on the school bus for 40 minutes to get to school. My mum believed in 'good nutrition' and would never let me leave the house until I had eaten a full breakfast of porridge, toast and fresh orange juice. By the time I had sat down on the school bus, the pain and cramping started. I was in complete and utter agony, and there was nothing I could do about it.

By the time I had reached school, I felt on the verge of passing out, and had to run to the nearest bathroom with continual diarrhea, thus missing early registration and clocking up a large amount of 'late' entries on the school register. It always left me exhausted and with poor concentration, and I had to go to bed as soon as I got home from school.

No-one really understood my problem, which worsened when I began menstruation. I felt constantly uncomfortable, unclean and just wanted to stay at home near a toilet that I was familiar with. My parents put it down to anxiety, and in a way, they were right. But it is the IBS that creates this anxiety: the fear of not being near to a toilet, of having diarrhea when you're out at a special occasion or important event, or just the worry that your life isn't your own and that you have to think of 'toilet troubles' before your own enjoyment.

This continued until I was in my late teens, where my condition seemed to ease. A flare-up in my mid-twenties has seen the return of this condition. I find it highly embarrassing, and feel so uncomfortable with talking about it to other people: often when I'm late for work or evenings out, I will tell people I have been sick, rather than mention I've been sat in the loo for hours on end with diarrhea.

The worst time I remember was on our honeymoon. We went on a beautiful cruise and I was really looking forward to it. The food was gorgeous, if a little rich, but I thought, what the hell? It's my honeymoon! Big mistake. I spent the majority of our holiday camped in the toilet wherever we went. I could hardly leave the ship for the fear of not knowing where the next toilet was.

Now, after three years of trying for a baby, and enduring menstrual periods similar to labor contractions and heavy blood clots, I am finally pregnant - 19 weeks, and the flare-ups have just begun to worsen. Whether it's baby-related and hormones, or just back with a vengeance, I'm finding it really difficult to cope with. It's preventing me from enjoying my pregnancy, because of the alternation between painful spasmodic diarrhea and now constipation for the first time. Thank God I have an understanding husband!

I suspect, like the rest of IBS sufferers, I will just manage, and carry on the best way I can - I am so privileged to actually be pregnant, that this fact normally gets me over any bad days when I have to stay in bed through sheer exhaustion of constantly needing to go to the toilet. I look forward to our new arrival in December, and hope that by combining yoga, aromatherapy and acupuncture, I can manage my IBS to a reasonable degree, and get my life back on track.

E-mail Claire: [email protected]

Update on Claire...

I just thought I would update my story, as I have had many kind emails about it. I posted it in July 2005, when I was 19 weeks pregnant. My IBS-D symptoms had just begun to worsen and I was really poorly with pain, constant diarrhea and the inability to leave the toilet.

One morning, it was so bad that I called my GP. She was very understanding and asked me to come in straight away. When I arrived, she has already phoned through to the hospital and I was admitted that afternoon, due to the fluid loss and being almost five months pregnant. I spent a few days in hospital, and had constant monitoring throughout my pregnancy - seeing a bowel consultant every week. I also saw the dietician every week, who thought that if I cut out the 'trigger' foods, I would feel so much better. Yes, because it is that simple.

Apparently, very few women suffer so badly during pregnancy. They tend to put it down to hormone levels. I felt as though I was a bit of mystery to the consultants as they didn't quite know what to suggest. Medication is so limited during pregnancy. Most of them came out with the same words, 'But don't worry, because the baby is just fine!' Yes, but what about me? It may be totally selfish, but I was so sick, and I never went back to work as I couldn't be away from the loo for too long.

I had to go through the Dole Police to get some sort of money to live on as my job did not provide sick pay. I ended up on incapacity benefit, trying to explain to a different benefits clerk every time about my problem, and them telling me I had to come in for a return-to-work interview! My doctor had signed me off indefinitely, and I was to have bed-rest, and there I was being told to come in for an 'interview' - it was just hilarious!

I was made to feel like I was a faker and that I was not entitled to any assistance. I think their professionalism was totally summed up when I received my claim form and my condition was written as 'Iratible' Bowl Syndrome!

I had severe symptoms and was pretty much housebound until our beautiful daughter arrived, bang on time on Boxing Day of last year. I endured a difficult labor, made worse by still needing to go to the loo throughout - surely there was nothing left inside me but a baby? I also ended up with a rectal tear, which has not properly healed, and now my IBS is constipation-dominated - for the first time in 14 years!

I am pretty much managing now. I am a Reiki practitioner, and I find this form of healing fantastic for my symptoms. I would still highly recommend aromatherapy and acupuncture - I find these great for relaxation. So if anyone has had a similar pregnancy, you are not alone. I hope you all find some relief and keep your pain to a minimum!

The pregnancy tale of...KP

I have had IBS since I was around 16, but it was not diagnosed until I was around 24. During high school and college I would get diarrhea and nausea if I waited too long to eat, and the only thing to do was just eat, usually soup broth.

My symptoms have always included severe hunger pains, which make me nauseous, and diarrhea. Many people would wonder why I didn't just eat if I was hungry but it was not that easy. I was in pain, I felt I would get sick to my stomach at any minute, and no food had any interest to me.

When I was 24 years old the IBS got so bad I was not able to work. I was in constant pain, I had trouble eating, I had diarrhea and got really depressed that I would never feel normal again. I had an ongoing struggle with the doctors who thought I should try to give up dairy and try to give up foods that brought on the pains, but in reality I couldn't really eat anything at this point as I was in so much stomach pain.

I felt even more depressed because I was feeling so sick, but the doctors were not realizing the extent of my IBS attacks. I finally ended up getting help from a psychiatrist and therapist. It helped to talk to someone, and while IBS is not a 'mental disease', taking anti-depressants helped give me strength to work on and maintain a better diet.

I didn't feel hungry constantly. I could eat a normal breakfast and not have to deal with stomach pains until the next time I forced something down. I have had the IBS under control with hyoscyamine and Lexapro (the anti-depressant) for over three years now. In combination, they have both worked wonders to control my IBS symptoms.

I only take a 10mg dose of Lexapro but it has really helped! I stopped taking the hyoscyamine about two months before I got pregnant as it is a drug which has not been tested during pregnancy. I also stopped the Lexapro but was prescribed Zoloft.

I am currently only in my seventh week of pregnancy but my IBS has flared up again. I wake every morning which intense hunger pain, shaking, diarrhea and the need to cry. I feel guilty taking a prescription drugs while pregnant but worry that without the Zoloft I will spend the days curled up in a ball of pain on my bathroom floor.

I eat almost every 30 minutes now from about 6:30 in the morning until the IBS settles a little in the afternoon. I know morning sickness is contributing to this scenario but IBS is causing the majority of symptoms. The doctors have not been much help at this point and it is very hard some days to make it to work, but I do not have any other choice.

Why can't IBS be taken a little more seriously especially during pregnancy? It affects the mom and baby just like any other chronic disease. It has felt good to read about other people's experiences so I do not feel alone in this, and it has helped to get some of my story expressed. The IBS is controlling my life. I am constantly worried about when the next attack will hit and how bad it will be.

The pregnancy tale of...Alecia

I'm 27 and the mother of a two-and-a-half year old boy, and also expecting again, I'm almost 15 weeks along. I've had IBS forever...my Mom says I was pretty much born with it. I was tried on a lot of different formulas as a baby, and different foods and diets as I grew up. The most annoying thing is that some foods cause a problem for me for a while, then they are fine (tomatoes and tomato sauces are a big one here) and then another food starts to cause problems.

I usually manage my IBS fairly well with diet, but I can remember a lot of times going to school and being so constipated and bloated that I could hardly sit down. Then I also remember the times when it was so much the other way that I missed exams because I would get to school but couldn't get out of the bathroom.

I ended up very ill about five years ago and it was to the point that all I could eat without getting very sick was chicken stock. Eventually (after a few months) I was able to add back baby foods and then some regular foods. I met a great specialist who recommended amitriptyline in low doses (10 or 20mg) and it worked wonders for me.

When I was pregnant the first time my IBS was fairly manageable. I had constipation for most of the pregnancy. At just past half way through the pregnancy I was iron deficient and was told to take iron pills (I couldn't even take pre-natal vitamins). The pills gave me the symptoms of intestinal blockage which would resolve, after 12 hours, with severe diarrhea.

All the cramping caused me to start to dilate and efface early. I did end up holding on and having my son the day after my due date, but since I had already progressed so far labor was short, painful and somewhat bewildering. In the 10 weeks between when my IBS was irritated by the iron pills and the day my son was born we made almost weekly trips to the hospital because of what usually turned out to be IBS irritating my uterus.

To resolve the iron issue I ended up with weekly injections. After my son was born my bowel habits returned to 'normal' (my normal anyway) for a couple months. Then they got worse again (I qualify worse as diarrhea to the point where I start to lose weight) and I had to go back on the amitriptyline.

When I got pregnant this time I stopped the amitriptyline (it's apparently contraindicated in pregnancy) and boy has this been a shock. I can identify with the stories I see on this website of everyone thinking you have to be constipated while pregnant, but this time I just can't get out of the bathroom.

I wake up in the middle of the night, in the morning, when I'm out shopping, at play group with my son...and the pains hit. Usually the worst pains are the late evening/early morning ones between 11pm and 4am. My husband is the greatest and will get up and get me a hot pack, water, or just sit with me (he's seen me pass out from the cramps).

I've had it where I can barely make it the 20 steps to the bathroom and then I have cramps so bad I can't go at all. I'm getting concerned since the cramps are daily now, though I do know they are IBS because they are somewhat relieved by going to the bathroom. I've had diarrhea since the start of this pregnancy, and it's getting worse. Where I'd typically go every few days now I'm down to at least twice a day with major cramping and explosive diarrhea that leaves me totally wiped out after. I'm not gaining weight (but am holding steady with eating a lot more food than usual) and am not showing at all yet.

I figure I'll need iron injections again this time (I tried a liquid one called Floradix but even at an eighth of the normal dose I had miserable symptoms) and I usually give myself B12 vitamin shots every few weeks since I don't absorb it now either. I figure I'll probably get into other deficiencies if this keeps up.

I've had lots of testing and they keep saying we'll investigate again soon (usually every four years with blood tests and colonoscopies) to check again for Crohn's or anything else. I'd dearly love to have my IBS just disappear...it limits what I can eat, and what I can safely eat changes often. My biggest hope is that my kids never end up with it!

E-mail Alecia: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...K

I was told I probably had IBS when I was 19 after much pain and diarrhea. Lettuce, carrots and apples seemed to be the triggers. Over the years I have slowly eliminated more and more foods from my diet including most fruits and fruit juices - the natural preservative and I don't get along - calciferous vegetables, yolks, wine, sulfur dioxide used for drying fruits, lactose, various sugars including glucose and many artificial sweeteners, oats, dense starch, ie: large quantities of potato, rice, and until very recently pasta (now a pregnancy craving?) plus only small amounts of wheat products.

Some days I can eat foods containing these things and other days definitely not! Some of these foods were on the advice of a naturopath and also with approval from a dietician my doctor sent me to, the others I have discovered on my own.

I have tried gluten-free diets, food combining, and low carb diets, with only limited success for all. Low carbs was probably the best, but not easily sustainable at times. The interesting thing is that in a foray into body building diets a couple of years ago (similar to the low carb option) I was relatively symptom free, but as my diet was already restricted I found it extremely boring!

I am now 34, ten weeks pregnant with twins, and instead of an occasional bout maybe one every month or two, it seems to be every couple of days. It first happened in my sixth week and I ended up having to go for an emergency scan as there was some vaginal bleeding. I had a miscarriage at the same time last year so it has possibly made me a little paranoid.

All ended up being well - and the shock of the twins was discovered instead. But as with some of the other stories, I am now fearful about what is going to happen when the bowel cramps are really bad. I have to make an effort to 'hold on' in case I start having uterine cramps as well.

I guess I will just keep on experimenting with my food options - although the morning sickness makes it all a little odd. Normal options in my usual diet hold little appeal, although I am still trying to maintain it as best I can. In the meantime I'll try not to worry myself too much (another trigger), and just be aware. Good luck to the others.

The pregnancy tale of...Kelly K

I started experiencing problems with IBS during my first pregnancy, age 25. I had what I deem 'poop attacks' with diarrhea, vomiting, sweats, and severe pain which came in waves. Sometimes I would barricade myself in a bathroom stall at work for two hours trying not to scream, hoping the others in the bathroom would leave. Long story short, the pain went away as soon as I delivered.

Then during my second pregnancy at age 27, it came back a little bit worse. I held on and delivered with the relief of knowing it would go away. But it didn't. It got worse. For a year after, I had all of the above symptoms with the addition of blood, mucus, and incontinence. Then I was scared that there was something seriously wrong with me. So I saw specialist after specialist. Test after test. 'Maybe you have IBS', that was the answer I got. 'Maybe.' Finally it went away on its own.

So now I am terrified because I am 10 weeks pregnant again (by accident), age 29. Due to the problems I had while pregnant, we decided not to have anymore children. But the really funny thing is I apparently pooped out the IUD during one of my attacks. Ha! (mood change). I have so much anxiety about going through the pregnancy and the post-partum period again. I can't even find anything positive about having another baby.

I am so scared and ridden with anxiety. My husband is a great guy but just does not sympathize with me or understand why I am so negative right now. And yes, the symptoms have come back. I puked this morning while having painful diarrhea cramps. My kids stare at me when I am having the attacks. I feel so bad. I can't even take care of myself - let alone take care of them.

My doctor just stares blankly at me and has no advice. Has anyone found any relief from these symptoms during pregnancy?

E-mail Kelly: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Marcy

I would like to share my IBS story. I had my first IBS bout in July of 1994, it was the early morning of July 5th and I was about five months pregnant. The pains awoke me from my sleep. I thought that I was in early labor. Than I finally went about five times and it went away until three months after my son was born. It came back with a vengeance.

It was so bad that I called my mother and told her to come over and take my two children because I called an ambulance. That was in 1995. I have been off and on miserable ever since. I have since had another child, and the only thing that helped a little was Tylenol 3 during that pregnancy. After that, I was given many different painkillers and had to get off them because I was afraid of becoming an addict.

I finally was told, after three colonoscopies and two endoscopies, that I had IBS. Nothing much works. I have the big diarrhea kind. Before my recent pregnancy I was on Ultram which helped, but the side effects were sometimes not so pleasant. The GI put me on an anti-depressant. Not the normal kind. I can't remember how to spell it right now but it is the kind that they use for nerve receptors, to dull them. It seemed to be working, but I got pregnant and had to stop.

Right now, I am on Tylenol 3 again until two weeks before delivery. It has been one hell of a ride. Because of my IBS I lost a husband, he divorced me because he couldn't stand dealing with me. My health went downhill. I have actually lost bone in my jaw that they are saying was because I wasn't eating right for over 10 years. Life was hard and the only thing that got me through was my children, my mother, and my brother. My mother and brother have IBS but not as severe as me.

Thank God I did find a man who believes it isn't in my head. He loves me and helps me always. I can count on him to make me rice and tea when I am so miserable, and drive me to the ER while I am in the back seat, probably going in a Depends that I keep just in case I can't make it.

I am one of the ones who can't eat a lot of things. Fiber does nothing but make it worse. If I could pick one thing to get rid of that would make it easier to live with, it would be those horrible cramps! My God. They are a lot like labor pains. But I hold out hope that they will find something to end IBS, both constipation and diarrhea.

E-mail Marcy: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Angela

I'm 30 now and have been suffering since I was 13, mainly with bloating, bend-over-double cramps and diarrhea. I've had periods of up to a year in which the symptoms were infrequent enough to get on with life, and so I've managed to move around quite a bit - and gathered some experience of doctors' attitudes in different countries.

I grew up and went to university in the UK, and National Health Service doctors never helped at all. 'You probably have IBS' was the most constructive thing they said. Maybe attitudes have changed in the last few years? My doctor in the USA had IBS herself, and suggested eliminating foods to find out what might exacerbate it. That's how I found out that I can't take monosodium glutamate, a start at least!

These days I live in Germany, and here I have had an endoscopy and full investigation to confirm that there is nothing else going on (about time!), but...apart from a sympathetic doctor who told me that I could take loperamide (Imodium) as often as I needed to with no guilty conscience, and the knowledge that I don't have anything 'serious' going on, that's still it.

For the last two and a half years my IBS has really been at its worst, and has started to affect my life a lot more. I've stopped going out much, and think twice before I get on a bus or a plane - I'm terrified of not making it to a toilet. This hasn't happened to me yet, for which I thank my lucky stars, but it's often been a very close call. Imodium may be a wonder-drug, but it's not a cure (and gives me a lot of pain and constipation!).

As for fiber - I've read a lot about insoluble fiber supposedly clearing IBS up, and - no way! It makes the diarrhea yet more frequent, every time. I already drink upwards of two liters of water a day, and have tried introducing the fiber very gradually. Just doesn't do it! Although soluble fiber in the form of oats (porridge) does seem to help. I'm planning on trying a high soluble fiber diet as the next step.

Anyway...I found your excellent website whilst searching under 'irritable bowel syndrome and pregnancy', for which there isn't too much information on the web, and I thought maybe I could contribute something of use.

I'm currently in the 13th week of my first pregnancy, and have found that the world expects pregnant women to be constipated. Not me - I've had diarrhea since the beginning. It was at its worst during weeks five to nine and came several times a day, almost every day, but that's calmed down now to two to three days a week. And alas, no more loperamide! It hasn't been proved safe for use in pregnancy.

My sister also suffers from IBS and had the same during her second pregnancy. She says it got much better around the fifth month. She has one pregnancy book which acknowledges that 'the hormonal changes of pregnancy can trigger diarrhea in some women'. So whether that's really IBS or not, who knows? (But it does feel the same).

My doctor says that if diarrhea occurs less than 10 times a day he would just live with it (he is, of course, a man and not pregnant), and be sure to drink enough, but if it gets more frequent he would actually consider loperamide, because dehydration can be damaging or even fatal for a fetus. The initial indications are that loperamide is not harmful, but there is not enough data to prove this. Apparently if you have to take unproved drugs, though, the second trimester carries the least likelihood of fetal damage.

I do find that the diarrhea gets worse if I am stressed, or tired, and that if I take a day off work (and spend most of it in bed) then it really helps. Fruit juice or meat every day make it worse, and calcium, vitamin C or magnesium supplements all have a guaranteed effect 45 minutes later!

The good news is that according to my sister this doesn't happen in every pregnancy (her first was just fine), and it does clear up at some point. I also have an IBS book which says that for some lucky women, their body changes so much during pregnancy that their IBS clears up long-term...so don't be put off!

The pregnancy tale of...Caryn

I was diagnosed with IBS in 2003 after many tests, and being told I had gallstones. I was even scheduled with a surgeon to have my gallbladder removed when the weekend before the appointment, I went to the emergency room in pain and they did another sonogram which showed no stones.

From there I had an endoscopy, and the gastro doctor told me I had GERD, but she wanted to do a colonoscopy because of my symptoms. After the colonoscopy the doctor told us that I had IBS/spastic colon. Her nurse then called the next day and told me to increase my fiber and drink lots of water, also to stay away from dairy as much as possible.

So, I stopped the hyoscyamine that I had already been prescribed and tried watching what I ate. It did not help. Finally, I spoke with another sufferer of IBS and she said lettuce was a big trigger for her. Well, I had been eating a lot of salads, so I stopped. It did help for a while, but I soon found out many things seemed to trigger it, especially stress.

So, in March 2004, I found out I was pregnant and shortly thereafter the pains started and lasted until right after the third month. My OBGYN told me I needed to figure out the difference between false labor and IBS pains. It's funny because I often had equated to pain to contractions before I was pregnant. If I could do that I wouldn't have had to ask him!

Anyway, I found a midwife and am planning a home birth. From the fourth month to a few weeks ago (about week 33 of pregnancy) I had no bouts. Then starting at this point the whole process is starting up again. I am concerned because I really can't tell the difference between the IBS 'contractions' and the Braxton-Hicks and wonder if I will no when I start true labor. I would imagine I will know the difference when active labor starts though.

Again, thank you for the website, I just got out of bed and did a search on pregnancy and IBS because of my frustration! I am comforted to hear others' stories.

E-mail Caryn: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Rachele

I am 23 years old and have suffered from IBS with diarrhea for as long as I can remember. My mom suffers from IBS with constipation, so for the longest time I thought my stomach problems were hereditary. I am now beginning to think that it has a lot to do with my nerves.

My father passed away while my mom was three months pregnant with me, so needless to say her nerves/emotions were chaotic for a long time. I have recently gotten to the point where I feel completely helpless. I had a colonoscopy done four years ago and the doctor said that I had a spastic colon. He prescribed me Levsin which I took successfully for a couple of years.

Well, the main problem now is that I am pregnant...30 weeks to be exact, so I am not able to take Levsin or similar medications for my problem. I was even told to limit my intake of Imodium AD which I somewhat rely on during those horrid diarrhea explosions...it helps some of the times, but I always have to return to the bathroom at least twice after taking the two-pill dosage before I feel any relief.

I know that my problem is frustrating and annoying not only to myself but also to my husband and others who have to deal with it. I have a large family who likes to visit over meals, but I do not feel comfortable unless I know there will be a restroom near at all times after I eat.

It has gotten to the point now where I dread leaving the house because I know that at any minute my stomach spasms could start. This will be our first child, so I haven't gone through labor yet, but I hope that it's not much worse than these stomach pains that I get with the episodes because they put me in tears.

I continue to ask the doctors for help in what medications I can take or what I can do to help, but all they ever say is to watch what I eat. I don't know how many times I tell them that it doesn't matter what I eat...my stomach has a mind of its own and apparently it hates me.

I have had countless embarrassing diarrhea moments and so I stress over these re-occurring every time I leave the house. Are there any recommendations for my situation? I have read the other stories and can definitely relate, but my pregnancy is causing a lot of dilemma in solving my problem, especially using medications. I don't care if they prescribe me a drug that I have to take the rest of my life, as long as it helps relieve the pain and chronic diarrhea.

E-mail Rachele: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Jennifer

Recently I had a season where I had several panic attacks and a lot of anxiety. Through my wonderful counselor, church family, family and friends, I have emerged from that season and now am able to breathe through any anxiety I experience. I rarely experience anxiety now nor have I had a panic attack in more than a year.

However, one symptom has remained with me: IBS. Before my 'anxious' season, I was extremely healthy. Now, I have frequent bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation, cramping, indigestion, etc.

I am now 19 weeks pregnant, and no - the IBS has not gone away. Fortunately for me, I did not experience morning sickness (I'm not sure what I would have done if I had had both!), however the random spurts of diarrhea have become more frequent. One minute, I feel fine, and the next minute I have to run to the bathroom. Just an hour ago, we had to cancel an evening out with our friends because I had a sudden attack, and I never know how long they will be.

Thank you for wanting to do more research on this topic - I haven't found much information on any of the pregnancy sites about what to do so that the IBS doesn't get worse or affect the pregnancy. But it IS nice to know that there are a lot of other people out there suffering from the same thing!

E-mail Jennifer: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Victoria

I'm 34 and have had IBS since my early teens, I think. 'Gut trouble' was just not something we talked about in my house, so I never told my parents and never saw any doctors about it. I just coped. When I was in my late 20s I started researching the internet to find out what was going on with me and discovered that I had many of the classic symptoms of IBS. I talked to my doctor about it and she agreed with my self-diagnosis. I've never had an endoscopy or colonoscopy to date but my docs have always believed me.

I find my IBS is triggered more by environmental causes than foods. I react strongly to stress and to chemical pollutants. I have something called multiple chemical sensitivity. I'm 'allergic' to a lot of chemicals and petrochemically-based products. Perfumes, fragrances, personal care products, household cleaners, the off-gassing from plastics, vinyls, particle board, new carpets and so on.

I've been able to control my IBS to some extent by moving to the country, to a house with no new materials in it and hardwood flooring. It's improved my health a lot. That and I work hard to keep stress at work to a minimum. I find that I only really have IBS trouble at work because of all the toxins and stress there.

Fast forward to this week. I'm 15 weeks pregnant and twice this week I was hit with the worst cramping and diarrhea I've ever had with IBS. Like others, I was afraid I was losing the baby at first. The attacks hit me on the way to work, too, which didn't help at all. The first day I went home sick at noon. Then I took the next day off and had no symptoms whatsoever. Go figure. The day after that, I went back to work and had the same problems on the drive in. Today it was not as severe but still there.

I'm not sure how to handle this. I don't know if I should just get up an extra hour early and get moving to start my gut and get rid of the problem. Apparently from what others have said fiber really doesn't help. That's what my docs have recommended and I haven't noticed any positive difference.

The idea that I'm going to have to cope with this pain and diarrhea for the next 35 weeks is a bit scary and daunting. But knowing that I'm not crazy or alone in this helps a lot. It's a huge comfort to have read your stories and see that there are other women out there trying to keep it all together and keep yourselves healthy in your pregnancies. So, a big thank you to all of you for contributing your stories.

The pregnancy tale of...Heather

I have probably been suffering from IBS since high school, but because of the shame associated with the symptoms I really never spoke with a doctor or family about it. I am now 35, seven weeks pregnant, and officially diagnosed with IBS by my family practice doctor. Everything I hear from people on this website is so similar to what I have had to experience I feel a lot better knowing I'm not the only one.

This was a planned pregnancy so I knew right away that I was pregnant. On Tuesday of the fifth week, I started feeling cramps and taking extra strength Tylenol, mostly because I have been on the pill for 15 years and I just assumed it was some mild cramping due to the pregnancy. On that Thursday the pain got so bad I went to the nurse where I worked and she sent me to the ER immediately. They ruled out ectopic pregnancy and cysts, and sent me home. I made it to work on Friday and was supposed to meet with my OBGYN on the following Monday.

I never made it to see her. The weekend was basically me laying on the floor, curled up in a ball, moaning, crying, seeing stars, sweating, and trying different laying positions to deal with the pain, which would come as frequently as every hour and lasted 10-20 minutes each time. I went back to the ER Sunday where they put me on morphine for a blessed four hours, and that was the only relief I got. They sent me home with Percocet which did not touch the pain.

On the Monday my OBGYN doc had to reschedule and I wound up seeing my GP. He prescribed Dicyclomine, and if that wouldn't work, Zelnorm. The first sort of worked, but the second caused clear liquid diarrhea and vomiting. It took the whole week of me laying on my sofa and not moving, plus switching back to the Dicyclomine at double the original dose to make me feel confident enough to leave the house two days ago. I tried to breathe through the pain and visualize myself outside my body during the attacks.

I now take 20mg Dicyclomine every three hours. I know when I forget a dose, as those of you who have been woken by the pain in the middle of the night can attest. I set my alarm for every three hours when I go to bed. I am only beginning to address the food choices stuff, as I had been on a low carb lifestyle before the pregnancy started (which had helped).

I went off the diet the month before we conceived to provide the necessary nutrients for the baby, but I can't help wondering if that is part of the problem. I do always keep food in my stomach all day long, as that nauseous hunger pang stuff tends to be a trigger for me for IBS and for morning sickness. I also wear sea bands to control nausea.

Most important to stress, I think, is that no one understands the degree of pain we suffer. I told more than one doctor I would get rid of the baby if it would make the pain stop. I told my husband I was going to overdose on medicine just to get them to take me seriously at the hospital. I can't imagine labor would touch this pain.

Don't let them act like you are crazy, or melodramatic, or attention-seeking. This pain is very real and you deserve some advocacy. I plan to print these stories and take them to my doctor when I go to see her, just so that some other girl out there might not have to endure two weeks of incapacitating pain before the doctor can figure out the problem.

Hang in there. I think this is probably going to be one of the worst things to endure in my life, but I am hoping the baby will make it worthwhile. I don't know if I will ever try for another, though. It's so hard. Each of you know what I mean.

E-mail Heather: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Kelly

I have suffered from IBS for 12 years and even now I still have not managed to find my triggers. I can distinctly remember the first day of the onset of my symptoms. I was working behind a till and I had the most horrendous pain grip me. It traveled up my body right from the soles of my feet to the top of my head and back again. I then broke wind and the pain subsided. The smell however was like a rat had crawled up a drainpipe and died.

The symptoms carried on this way for about a month. I looked about six months pregnant and as a 17 year-old self-conscious woman, this was quite distressing. I visited my doctor who thought I had a stomach ulcer and gave me medication. Little did I know that this would be the start of 12 years of frustration with the medical service. I was admitted at 17 to hospital with a suspected Fallopian tube infection and now when I think it was probably only colic.

During the early stages I found the bloating increasingly difficult to manage as I was always so skinny and never had to worry about elasticated waists and the increasing amount of comments about when the baby was due! I never really tried to look into what IBS was as I very naively thought it would go away!

I became pregnant when I was 19, and during my pregnancy I never had any symptoms of IBS and felt so healthy (in fact I never really remember feeling that well). After my daughter was born my IBS came back ten-fold. At one point about 15 months after she was born I remember thinking that I was about to give birth again. I saw a doctor who told me I was suffering from colic. He found it very difficult to accept that I was not pregnant as to anyone else I had a perfect third-stage pregnancy bump.

During the few years that followed I had colic on several more occasions, even taking myself up to accident and emergency as I was so distressed with the pain. I was then given an x-ray and was told again that it was colic and that my intestines where completely full.

I was eventually referred to the gastro specialist at the hospital who ruled out a few illnesses with tests and then once again confirmed IBS, and said that basically I had to live with it unless I wanted to live off rice and water! (Thanks for the help.) I became pregnant with baby number two at 25 and I was hoping that I would have nine months of bliss with no symptoms of IBS at all; but this time I suffered extremely badly with all symptoms. The trouble was that I could not take any medication. I was eventually given 75ml of Lactulose a day and two sachets of Fybogel.

After I gave birth my symptoms became a lot better, and I was managing to keep it at a reasonable level with just the occasional outburst every month or so. I had baby number three and it was pretty much like the second pregnancy.

My symptoms vary from being extremely constipated and having the most horrendous flatulence to being gripped by pain and having to live on the toilet seat. The worst part of my IBS is the embarrassing flatulence. It makes you feel really dirty and you cannot go anywhere public for fear of breaking wind. I can't seem to predict when and where the onset of my symptoms will begin.

I wish I was able to find some way of managing my IBS. I sometimes feel that my family get sick of hearing day after day how much discomfort I am in and walking around holding their noses. I also wish that I could go out when I wanted without having to stay in because none of my clothes fit me or because I am in so much discomfort.

People who do not have IBS do not understand! The medical service does not understand! The only people who do are fellow IBS sufferers which sad to say is about half the population.

The pregnancy tale of...TG

I was diagnosed with IBS during the first summer of my freshman year in college. The previous summer I learned the hard way that I was lactose intolerant as well. I took the year off from school during my sophomore year as the pain was unbearable. I would have the runs as well as constipation with severe abdominal pain (the kind where you can't move but you can't sit still either, your hands tingle and you get really hot and practically hyperventilate). I lost a lot of weight that year as I could not eat anything without having severe pains.

I went to see several professionals who all noted that it was all in my head...which is technical lingo for 'I don't know what the hell it is'. I went to see a naturopath who put me on a specific diet which was the worst and best thing ever for me. It was the worst because at some point it felt like all I was allowed to eat was grass but it was the best as it opened my eyes to what foods affected me.

For me it was a combination of diet and lifestyle. I learned to read my own body and know when it was time to take a break. Well now I'm pregnant and I was scared as my IBS would flare when I was menstruating so I thought with the hormones raging through pregnancy I would just be utterly miserable. However, for the first six months I did not have one single attack. I was morning sick (throwing up) but that was it.

Now I'm in my week 31 and over the past few weeks to a month I have been experiencing more bowel pains. I find it is mostly after meals. I have had to limit my meals to tiny sizes (I eat the same quantity of food but just spread it out throughout the day in snacks etc). What I'm most concerned about is what the baby is experiencing while I'm going through these 'attacks' - I get so tense it has to affect the baby in some way. I just hope that I can get through the next nine weeks and deliver the baby on time and not prematurely.

The pregnancy tale of...Rachel

I'm 27 years old. I had colic as a child, and I jokingly say I still have it today. I worry my baby will have it. I was diagnosed with IBS while in college and I have seen the worst bouts of it come and go over the last seven or eight years, even culminating in my demanding a colonoscopy from my gastro/digestive specialist when he continued to tell me it was all mental. The colonoscopy was clear (but awful as I woke up in the middle of it, I'll never forget that), and so I've continued to go manage the IBS as best as possible.

I even went through some stages of nausea, shaking, diarrhea, and fear of vomiting (emetophobia) so severe that it put me in the emergency room twice where they told me there was nothing that could be done. This resulted in me being put on Bentyl and Zoloft at a time in my life when I was severely depressed and scared. I will say that the Zoloft truly did help me, by calming my slightly OCD tendencies, and helping me to not worry so much about my stomach, so I was able to live a little more normally.

With my IBS there are some things that trigger it, but other times it has no explanation and seems mainly stress-related - for instance I sing on a worship team at our church, and every Sunday morning that I have to be there at 7:30am I'm usually having severe cramping and end up running for the bathroom with painful bowel movements that can only be classified as loose, but not quite diarrhea!

I had one of my worst bouts of IBS when I believe I was actually in my first week of pregnancy, this last June - my husband and I conceived about a week before we left for a big vacation to Italy, and the flight to Italy required a layover that we almost missed. I was struggling intensely, with crazy and painful cramping all through my abdomen. The first flight was so short I was not allowed to get up and go to the bathroom, but I eventually had to demand it, and then the flight got delayed and we were late for our flight from Toronto to Rome.

Once we ran into the plane and found our seats I just cried and cried and gripped my stomach, ending up in the bathroom toilet at least 10 times on the flight, watching my lunch and everything I'd eaten that day come through my system. I couldn't even eat the in-flight meal, I was in so much intestinal, abdominal distress.

A few days later we found out we were pregnant, and we were overjoyed. In general I've had what some have called 'mild' first trimester symptoms because I haven't actually vomited, but I did suffer from debilitating nausea through weeks six to eight, and fatigue that has made me into a whiney monster who has no motivation to do anything and feels utterly like a failure.

But what does happen is that every morning my IBS hits me with a vengeance, and I wake up with abdominal cramping that can only be described as a dull aching and sometimes painful cramping, that first scares me, afraid for my tiny developing baby, afraid of miscarriage, only to discover that I need the toilet so badly I must run for it. It happens like clockwork almost every morning, and sometimes a few times a day. The pain and cramping is the scariest part - most people don't know what it is like to always have abdominal cramping, and now I'm starting to finally stop being so afraid when I feel the cramps.

It is also difficult as so many pregnancy books tell us that you must eat so many fruits and vegetables, it's so important for the baby etc, and I watch them go through my system, sometimes seemingly undigested. It's just bizarre. I have to be so careful, and sometimes do resort to more starchy, carb-full foods in order to alleviate some distress.

I'm 12 weeks now and I hope to have good news to report and update when we have the baby. I will keep track of my IBS symptoms and hope that they won't get any worse then they are, and I hope for some reprieve at some point! Thanks for listening.

The pregnancy tale of...Briana

I was diagnosed with IBS at 17 after suffering symptoms for a year after taking the skin-clearing-up medicine called Accutane. Little did I know the price I'd have to pay for beautiful skin. My first pregnancy at 21/22 was quite easy. I had virtually no morning sickness and very little issue with the IBS throughout.

I am now 25 and nearly 14 weeks pregnant with my second and have gone from uncomfortable to absolutely miserable for the past 10 weeks (the flare-up is what caused me to take the pregnancy test). Just in the past week or so I have determined this must be the dark side of IBS and pregnancy. It just didn't even occur to me after my first one went so smoothly. I lost 12 pounds in my first trimester. Only recently can I eat more than a couple of bites of something without running to the bathroom in pain.

Every morning I drink large amounts of water just to flush my system and have to deal with the pregnancy nausea from not eating till after noon because I know the consequences of my eating breakfast far outweigh the nausea. I only work two and a half days per week thankfully and have managed somehow to push through at work though I am miserable every day I am there. I find my symptoms are much better when I get a nice long solid night's sleep (like 10 hours). But with pregnancy it is near impossible what with the getting up to pee and the insomnia.

The biggest problem I am having managing my symptoms (because in regular non-pregnant life I manage them very well through diet - I have finally after nine years escaped the fear of spending more than a few hours away from a comfortable toilet) is that my trigger foods have grown to incorporate foods that normally don't bother me at all (ie: tomato products and seasonings). In fact the part of my diet that helps regulate me, I can't keep up anymore. For example, I drink a glass of red wine every night normally which helps tremendously but obviously I can't do that during pregnancy and also I typically eat homemade guacamole every night which also helps, but avocado bothers me. Sigh. I have a long six months ahead and I'm afraid.

E-mail Briana: [email protected]VETHISPLEASEbenchmark-ins.com

The pregnancy tale of...Amber

I am six weeks pregnant. I have had IBS for seven years. The onset was five months after the birth of my son. I found that I could regulate it with eating certain foods. I eat a lot of chicken and pasta, and if I stray from these foods it gets worse.

Since I have been pregnant, even as early as implantation, it has been horrible. I am always bloated, with pains. I can't sleep at night because the pain is so severe. Some nights I wake up in the middle of the night and have to run to the bathroom. I have to sleep with a pillow on either side of me because when I roll over I have pain also. I have to grab myself in the painful area and squeeze.

Nothing seems to make it better. Some days I have severe diarrhea six or more times. I don't have to go to the bathroom and all of a sudden I have severe pains and have to run to the bathroom, it is horrible. Nothing I do seems to help. I already don't drink milk or eat yogurt, those kill me. They just get stuck in one spot.

When I was on my period before and would wear a tampon I would get shooting pains and have to jump up like I was going to die. I would jump on the counter. My husband would make sure I was OK. But it was embarrassing. I get these pains once in a while during my pregnancy but I am definitely not wearing a tampon so I know they are IBS symptoms.

I have tried medications over the years and nothing seems to help. Now they think it may be my gallbladder. I do not have pain in my gallbladder, I know it is my intestines. I have had this for seven years, I know the pain. I wish the doctors would just listen.

I just wish I knew what to do to make it better. I will try anything. I tend to feel sick and have to go to the bathroom more in the evening. I go to bed very early because I just don't feel good and I am in pain. Normally I will wake up in the morning and go to the bathroom a couple times and then feel better until around 5pm. Throughout the day I am mostly OK and feel better.

E-mail Amber: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Jenn

I'm now 27 and I have been suffering from diagnosed IBS for about 10 years. It has never been to a point where I felt like it was controlled, even though I've tried just about everything. My IBS definitely fluctuates between constipation and diarrhea.

Well, I got pregnant, and in the first few weeks of my pregnancy the IBS was absolutely terrible, and I suffered from some of the worst constipation that I've ever had. At around the 14th week things improved and amazingly, after that point I was almost entirely symptom-free for the duration of the pregnancy. I thought that the pre-natal vitamin that I was taking, which contained a stool softener, was the reason, that it was some kind of miracle drug.

As it turns out, I had my baby three weeks ago, and my IBS symptoms are back, pretty much exactly like they've always been. I'm still taking the pre-natal vitamin and obviously it wasn't the vitamin that had anything to do with it.

I had never done any research prior to my pregnancy on the relationship between pregnancy and IBS and for some reason I thought that I just wouldn't have IBS anymore, but that definitely doesn't seem to be the case.

E-mail Jenn: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Rebecca

I'm not even sure where to begin! Finding this site has been a lifesaver to me. I'm 28 and I have been suffering with IBS since I was about 10, but I was officially diagnosed when I was 18. My usual is constipation, however I do get diarrhea attacks as well.

I'm currently about five months pregnant. This is my fourth pregnancy, I have two children of my own and I was also a surrogate a couple of years ago. With my previous pregnancies my IBS actually improved, only to return a few months later. This one however has been awful. It has caused my constipation to be unbearable. I also have hyperemesis, which is basically a fancy way to say a pregnant woman who can't stop vomiting. If my first pregnancy had been like this, my son would most definitely be an only child!

I worry every day that I am going to pass this on to my children. My mom and my sister both suffer from IBS. It is nice to have their support, but they both live far away so we don't see much of each other. My current doctor is also great, but as of yet we still have not found a medication that works for me.

Another part of this that is so hard is that my husband is very unsupportive. He is one of those it's all in your head or watch what you eat type of people. It's like I have to hide it from him when I get an attack, or he makes me feel so much worse by making his comments about how 'sickly' I am and how I can't handle a little pain. I would just love for him to have one attack so he would know how hard it is to deal with on a daily basis!

We struggle financially, so it makes him even more upset when I have to miss work because of my stomach. If anyone has any suggestions on how to handle a cranky spouse who doesn't understand the illness, please let me know!

E-mail Rebecca: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Amy

When I got pregnant with my first child I got the first symptoms of my IBS at about six months along. I had this severe pain under my right rib. I actually thought it was my son's leg up underneath my rib because the pain never went away! No kidding. Nothing took it away. I had to stop working at my job because my job consisted of sitting down at a computer and sitting for a long period of time would make the pain even worse! Driving in a car for more then 30 minutes was terrible.

I talked to my doctor about it and he thought it was my gallbladder and told me to watch my diet and we would keep an eye on the issue. I gave birth to my son in April at 2:54pm, and I swear to you at 2:55pm the pain was gone. I could not believe it. I was so happy I was not in pain. I could sit up in an upright position and I was fine!

In May 2005 I got pregnant with my daughter. At about four months into the pregnancy the pain came back. This time I was working as a security trainer at a local retailer and I was driving an hour and a half to each of my stores. The car rides were hell! Everything was the same as before. I knew this time though it was not her foot stuck underneath my rib. She was only the size of a pickle. So I spoke to my doctor. I had a different doctor this time around but the same story. I even had an ultrasound taken of my gallbladder and nothing appeared unusual so I had to take the pain again.

In January I gave birth and once again right away the pain was gone. About a year and half later I was really sick one day and was taking a nap. When I woke up I was in the same pain was in when I was pregnant. I knew I was not pregnant and it scared me because before I only got the pain when I was pregnant.

I called my family doctor and he told me to call the ER because I may need to get my gallbladder removed. I went in to the ER that day and after x-rays, ultrasounds, and a lot of pressing on me, nothing could be found. They recommended I see a gastroenterologist. Once there I was diagnosed with IBS.

Now I have to take a laxative every day to every other day just to go to the bathroom. If I don't it will be five to seven days before I go and I will have an IBS attack. My husband and I would like to get pregnant for our third soon. I am scared to death the pain will start this time at two months along! I hope I can still drink my laxative tea when I am pregnant. That's my story. Not a happy ending but at least I now know what I have.

E-mail Amy: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Marie

I was diagnosed with IBS about eight years ago. I believe it was related to overwhelming job stress, and I began to have abdominal cramps every morning. I'd be constipated for weeks and I had to rely on laxatives just to flush my system. Usually I'd get bouts of IBS that seemed to be triggered by stress. I'd also get the occasional acid reflux.

My first pregnancy gave me the worst case of IBS I'd ever experienced. I had terrible cramping, constipation and bloating pretty much every day. I spent 30 to 45 minutes at least twice a day trying to eliminate. I'd strain and push and still not get full elimination.

I went to the ER in my seventh week, only to be told that my baby was fine and that these symptoms were 'normal' for pregnant women. My OBGYN recommended fiber, and I'd even been taking a pre-natal vitamin with a stool softener in it.

Well, in my eleventh week I had a miscarriage. Honestly, when I was having the miscarriage I couldn't tell if it was that or the pain of IBS. I just had terrible pains which I could not distinguish.

I'm now 12 weeks pregnant and still suffering from IBS symptoms. My constipation is not as bad this time, but I'm struggling with bloating, gas and cramping pretty much every day. The cramps sometimes feel like menstrual cramps. Sometimes I can hear my stomach gurgling as food is being moved in my intestines.

Eating is a challenge. I've tried eating to relieve pains, eating soup, avoiding dinner, and occasionally taking milk of magnesia or Mylanta. Most of my friends who've had babies never complained of such pains. I've been advised to 'enjoy' being pregnant, but with all the cramping and discomfort you can't enjoy it for fear that you're about to suffer another pregnancy lost.

What I've learned from this website is that I'm not alone. Honestly I feel like a freak because nobody seems to understand how much discomfort you suffer with. I just want a healthy baby and so I guess I'll have to suffer through IBS. Thanks so much for sharing your stories. Thanks to you, I am armed with drugs to suggest to my doctor.

E-mail Marie: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...LeAnne

My problems with IBS first started about 10 years ago, at the age of 16. I was sitting in my biology class and I started getting horrible cramps, I broke out in a cold sweat and blacked out. It didn't take long to diagnose me, but I was in the hospital for about four days before we got it all figured out.

I stopped drinking soda, I increased fiber, I was already pretty active (a 1996 Olympic softball team hopeful). Nothing worked, it got worse, it felt like it 'exploded'. I would have what I started calling 'attacks' all the time, out of nowhere, at least three times a week. I quit softball. I quit Tae Kwon Do. I missed a lot of classes, my grades dropped. I was miserable.

I had a period of remission for some crazy reason for about four years, and that was nice, but I always worried it was just around the corner. I knew where the bathroom was everywhere I went, and I had tricks to hide the diarrhea when in the bathroom. I got married and when we started looking for a home I was insistent that we have two bathrooms.

On my first wedding anniversary the IBS came back, with a vengeance. My husband and I were eating at a fairly pricey restaurant. Everyone was dressed so nicely, it was candle-lit, it was a really nice place. Then I felt it. The cramping. I excused myself and went to the bathroom, where I had explosive diarrhea. After it was over I felt better, as I always did, just a little tired. I went back to the table and five minutes later it was back...back to the bathroom. This happened two more times, I couldn't eat and had to tell the waitress I was pregnant (when I really wasn't) when she showed concern.

Finally, when the cramping came back a fourth time. I told my husband to pay the bill and I would be in the car. I ran out to the car, in the middle of a Chicago winter and held my stomach. My husband was taking forever. Oh no! More cramping! I reached in the backseat of the car and grabbed the plastic shopping bag that held a new shirt I had bought. I threw the shirt out of the bag and, yes, I had an 'attack' right there in the car into a plastic bag.

Thinking of that kills me. The smell, the mess, and to make it worse by the time my husband made it to the car I was ready for another attack. I spent the whole night in the bathroom, it lasted seven hours! Imodium helped little. Finally, exhausted, I fell asleep on the toilet. How romantic.

I don't fly in planes, the time I had to I was granted a pre-boarding pass because of the IBS. I never went on a road trip with friends. I don't like going to carnivals, festivals, concerts, anywhere where I'm forced to used an outhouse.

I'm divorced now, but engaged to a wonderful man. Now I'm 22 weeks pregnant and the IBS is worse than ever. Even though I have fear that I won't be able to tell when I'm in labor it's not my worst fear. I've actually spent a lot of time crying, afraid that I'm going to be in labor, in the hospital, with nurses and doctors and family all around me, with my legs in the air, and I'm going to have an attack, everywhere. Oh, God. I don't think I could deal with that. I hope I have to have a C-Section.

E-mail LeAnne: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Kate

I have suffered with IBS for over six years since I had a severe bacterial bug. Over the years I have tried exclusion diets etc to find out the 'trigger' but I have never been able to find it. I cope using Imodium and Colofac to help with spasms and the loose stools. It's just something I've learnt to live with.

We have recently found out that I am six weeks pregnant - amazing news. However, for the past two weeks I have had stomach cramps, extreme bloating and the runs at least three times a day, every day. This has led me to be constantly dehydrated. After finding out I was pregnant, this has continued and only seems to be getting worse.

I spoke with my doctor who has taken a sample for testing to ensure it's nothing sinister, and until then she asked me to starve myself for 24 hours to see if it help. I am back eating today, and 20 minutes after eating, I am back on the loo. The cramps are the worst as at this early stage I am always worrying that it's something wrong with the baby. The doctor said not to worry as long as there is no blood coming from anywhere - easy for her to say.

I feel better after reading some of your stories as it would appear that pregnancy does affect IBS, and it certainly feels like it has done for me. I am going back to work tomorrow - does anyone have any suggestions on what I can eat in an office environment, anything that might reduce the amount of time I spend in the loo? Does anyone know if this will last for the full nine months? Thank you all for writing your stories, nobody likes to talk about this stuff, but hearing other stories really helps.

E-mail Kate: [email protected]

The tale of...Ronit

I'm 25 and I have been suffering from IBS ever since I can remember. When I was nine, I had my first stool of blood and everyone thought I got my period. I didn't even know what a period was and needless to say was very embarrassed. I was put on a fiber diet (this was before there were tablets) and had to drink very gross powders every morning throughout my childhood until I just couldn't take it anymore and stopped. I was always sensitive to dairy products and suspected they triggered my IBS attacks. I began taking Lactaid when it was introduced. I still suffered from attacks.

When I was in 10th grade, I had had enough. I demanded my mother take me to the doctor repeatedly until he would figure out what was wrong with me. Every night I was in the bathroom for hours and the pain was unbearable from the spasms. After conducting several tests, he diagnosed me. The diagnosis was one of the best things that ever happened to me, as this resulted in the doctor prescribing Bentyl (dicyclomine), my lifesaver. After that, every time an attack would begin I would take a pill and it would be much easier to survive.

When I finished school, my attacks virtually disappeared. From suffering daily, I was now having an attack maybe twice a year (and it was usually due to something I ate). Then I got married and am currently pregnant. I began my second trimester today. I have been suffering from severe constipation almost the whole time. At about the time I began the third month, I had a terrible IBS attack. I automatically went to turn to my medication when I realized I had to think twice.

I am not currently living in the US anymore and I called my local doctor to see if I can take the Bentyl. They said they don't know what it is (and had hardly heard of IBS!) and would get back to me. Meanwhile, I thought I was going to die. I don't remember the last time I felt a fully-fledged attack, since I've been on medication for so long and rarely have attacks anymore.

Meanwhile, I called my doctor in the US who said no way about taking the medication. Shortly afterwards, the doctor here called and said I could take it 'no problem'. Obviously, I am relying on my doctor in the US who actually knows. This was one of my hardest experiences. The only plus was the diarrhea in a way because I hadn't had a bowel movement for a while beforehand.

This past Friday morning, starting at about 4am, I had my worst attack yet. The spasms woke me up and the diarrhea was painful as well. It lasted until about 11am. My husband was away that night and I went through it alone. I hate to say this, but there were moments that even though I'm happy in life, I just wanted to die. The pain was unbearable and there was nothing to do. When it finally ended, I had a little jello...and threw it up not long afterwards.

I don't know why being pregnant has started my attacks again randomly. I have cramping almost every night, but I read it's because of the baby's growth. I thought maybe the intestines are being moved around, and then beginning to spasm. My 'morning sickness' is bad enough and I already naturally avoid eating because of the pain food caused me my whole life. Now with food aversions...I basically starve and whatever I do manage to eat is thrown up usually. My doctors aren't concerned and say the baby is fine, although I worry for him/her.

I am going to the US this week and plan to see an OBGYN to discuss what can be done for my IBS attacks during pregnancy. I didn't think about IBS before I got pregnant. I had no idea it would or could worsen if pregnant. (I still would have gotten pregnant, but I would have liked to be better prepared.) I am shocked by how little information is online about pregnancy and IBS and how little information is known about this in general. I write this story in the hope to promote more research in this department and to comfort fellow sufferers, especially pregnant sufferers. Good luck.

E-mail Ronit: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...Ginger

I have had IBS since I was 18, after I took the morning-after pill to avoid a pregnancy. So I have a hint that IBS may be hormone-related, at least for me. After my first child was born when I was 26 my IBS-D totally kicked it up. I lost 100 pounds in less than a year and all my doctor could say was for me to buy 'skinny' clothes...so I got a new doctor!

Currently I am 27 weeks pregnant with my second child and my IBS has been a friend and a foe. For the first trimester it bunged me up so much I could enjoy all the foods I crave but never tolerate. I loved it...bring on the lactose...add the high fat and a burger and I was in heaven! Then my second trimester hit and the diarrhea came back something fierce and I landed in the ER with premature labor at 24 weeks.

The good news is that nothing is wrong and baby is doing great. Bad news was that the OB on duty informed me that IBS tends to get worse in the second and third trimester. Well at least I know the deal now...I find that understanding something takes a great deal of fear out of it.

My personal silver bullet (or as close as it gets): I went to see a medically-based naturopathic doctor...God bless him! He put me on a whack of supplements, including a pre-natal vitamin, fish oils, calcium/magnesium, a digestive enzyme and a huge dose of probiotics. I usually don't tolerate anything at all...as it goes in...so it comes out. I'm sure some of you get my drift! It has changed my life IBS-wise...now I'm not delusional or anything because if I indulge in all the holiday sweets, soy, or dairy I still suffer, though not as badly.

I am now 27 weeks pregnant and the supplements have allowed me to regain some trust in my bowels. I have only had one attack (today) since I visited the ER for pre-term labor and it's my own fault for not watching what I'm eating...I'm currently not to be left unsupervised around chocolate! The supplementation has also given me peace of mind that my little baby is getting great nutrition even though his Mama can't eat a hugely varied diet.

So to all of you who suffer...I just have one piece of advice. Be proactive and search, ask questions, harass, surf the net (for reliable sources) until you find something that will either help you physically (like my supplements) or support you mentally, which is equally important. Doing these two things is what allows me to live my life to the fullest considering of course my IBS and fibromyalgia. Good luck and remember - we're a club with a large membership - there is always someone out there who can help you on your journey.

E-mail Ginger: [email protected]

The pregnancy tale of...DH

I am seven and a half weeks pregnant and was told I had IBS about five years ago. Caffeine is a major trigger and peppermint tea usually helps - however, from about three days ago, I have been having what I at first thought was morning sickness - but now I'm sure that it is IBS symptoms. My midriff is sore and tender and I feel like I need to go to the toilet constantly except I can't. Either that or I then get diarrhea.

The stomach cramps are the worst - you worry that it is your baby, but these are familiar feelings and I know that it is a bout of IBS. It is 10 times worse in my pregnancy and nothing seems to ease it. Eating starchy foods such as potato products and plain biscuits helps a bit but I am in constant discomfort with it and don't know what to do.

I am off work at present because I don't feel able to get on with my day as normal and even though it is painful to sit here, I am on this website in desperation at wondering whether IBS is worse in pregnancy. It seems it can be for many women and it has so put my mind at rest that this is what I am experiencing. It has given me the confidence to contact my doctor for further advice. Thank God for this website!

The tale of...Anny

I've been suffering from IBS since I was 10 years old! Yes, this was when I got my first period. I am now 35 so this means that I've been in this situation for 25 painful years. My symptoms were worse during the first and second days of my period. Nobody seemed to believe me since I was so young, and when I became a teen things got worse, especially during school exams. So I spent my days with diarrhea and pain and of course loneliness because no-one understood what was happening to me, even my own mom.

After I started my college pharmacy study things begin to be a little clearer and I started to learn about diet and different drugs and what was going on in the first place. But to be honest all of that did not lessen or improve my pain. Any kind of stress, cold weather, fatty food or even homemade ice cream gave me cramping and diarrhea.

During my first pregnancy everything was fine until the seventh month. Things got so bad that I gave birth in my 36th week of pregnancy. The second pregnancy it started at the sixth month and it was so bad that I had to spend most of my work days in the bathroom leaving my boss so unhappy. I gave birth in my 36th week again due to continuous cramping and diarrhea.

Now I am nine weeks pregnant and I've started suffering from the cramping and diarrhea again. I am so depressed by the way my diarrhea caused me to be vitamin deficient especially with vitamin D. Reading people's stories makes me feel not alone, so thank you all for being here and for reading my story.