A study by researchers at University College Cork, Ireland and the University of Manchester, UK suggests that women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome are more likely to suffer from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. The findings are published today (Tuesday, 4th April) in the international academic journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is most common among women in their late teens to early 40s. Little is known about what happens to IBS during pregnancy or how IBS affects the outcome of pregnancy.
Using a large database of 100,000 women derived from general practices in the UK the study set out to address question: how does IBS affect pregnancy outcome?
The findings suggest that women with IBS are more likely to suffer from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and one in one hundred pregnancies is ectopic. Ectopic pregnancy is a potentially life threatening complication of early pregnancy and occurs when the embryo implants outside of the womb, most commonly in the fallopian tube.
The cause of many miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies is unknown so these findings are potentially important. It should be emphasised, however, that whilst women with IBS are at greater risk of both complications than unaffected women, the overall risk is small. At present, it cannot be said why IBS may be associated with these effects; only further research can reveal this.
The research, at the very least, illustrates the importance of IBS and why it deserves serious research attention. These findings also indicate the importance of prenatal care for women with IBS. "This is a preliminary study and whilst the results are interesting, they have not been confirmed and the overall risks to individual patients are small. The researchers are keen to reassure pregnant women with IBS. They would urge any pregnant woman who is concerned about her pregnancy to contact her doctor" added Dr Louise Kenny, Anu Research Centre,UCC.
IBS is one of the most common disorders of the gut and sufferers typically complain of abdominal discomfort, bloating and difficulty with their bowels. While many sufferers are able to manage their symptoms without medical help, a minority have frequent and severe symptoms which bring them to see doctors and can significantly impact on their work and daily lives. Professor Eamonn Quigley of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at UCC noted that "this research provides further evidence of the importance of IBS and is a new illustration of how IBS can cause problems outside of the gut. More research is needed to determine why IBS patients should have increased risks in pregnancy."
Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology