Colonoscopy prep harder on women than men

Colonoscopy is especially important for women, because they're more likely to have polyps or lesions deeper in the colon. Only colonoscopy examines the entire length of the colon. Emptying the contents of the colon - a step called bowel prep - is essential to a successful colonoscopy. But there's some reason to believe that bowel prep for a colonoscopy is harder for women than for men, reports the November 2008 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Women are more likely to be constipated, so it may be more difficult to clear the bowel. Women are also more likely than men to have irritable bowel syndrome, which can cause gas, bloating, and abdominal pain or spasm.

Preparing for a colonoscopy may be uncomfortable and time-consuming, but it needn't be an ordeal. Harvard Women's Health Watch suggests the following to help it go as smoothly and comfortably as possible:

  • Make sure you receive your colonoscopy prep instructions well before your procedure date, and read them completely as soon as you get them. You'll need to stop certain medications and foods up to a week ahead of time.
  • Arrange for the time and privacy you need to complete the prep with as little stress as possible. Clear your schedule, and be at home on time to start your prep. Stay as close to the bathroom as possible.
  • To make a bad-tasting liquid prep easier to swallow, add some Crystal Light or Kool-Aid powder (not red, blue, or purple); drink it chilled; drink it through a straw far back on your tongue; or hold a lemon slice under your nose while you drink the prep.
  • Water can get boring, so keep a variety of clear liquids on hand to drink before, during, and after your bowel prep.

Also in this issue:

  • Is Fosamax safe?
  • Vulvar skin problems
  • Implants for overactive bladder

Harvard Women's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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