A pregnant woman standing on the balcony of a bathroom tower holds her mouth about to puke, the sun is rising behind her

Morning Sickness And IBS Flares: A Tale Of Misery

Last updated: June 2022

I very much enjoyed my first IBS-free pregnancy. When I struggled with worsening symptoms after delivery, I always longed to get pregnant again to get some relief. Then, I did. However, this second pregnancy has not been IBS-free so far, and it’s been tough to deal with. In my first trimester especially, pregnancy symptoms combined with IBS flares did a really great job at kicking my butt.

Morning sickness increases the risk of flares

Morning sickness - or, more accurately, all-day nausea - forced me to eat random foods at random times of the day. Cravings and food aversions, in addition to the fact that everything smelled terrible, made it extremely tough to maintain a safe diet.

My morning sickness likes lemonade, tons of fruit, and yogurt. My IBS, not so much. Even though I really tried to limit the intake of trigger foods, my desire to feel less nauseous sometimes got the best of me. And that’s when things got really bad. Morning sickness in combination with a terrible IBS flare really is no joke.

Cramping made worse

I don’t always get painful cramping when I have a flare. However, during pregnancy, this symptom intensifies so much that IBS flares become even more difficult to cope with. Maybe it’s the expanding uterus, maybe it’s something else. All I know is that IBS cramps during pregnancy are on a whole new level, and not in a good way.

Without cramping, I can at least get some rest in between bathroom trips. With cramping, I’m afraid to even leave the bathroom, let alone do anything else. It’s painful and it makes pain-free IBS flares look like a walk in the park (which they aren't – but I just can't deal with cramps).

Miscarriage scares

When I’m not pregnant, I know that everything happening in my belly is probably related to digestive issues. Abdominal pain? Probably an upcoming flare. Weird noises? An upcoming flare, once again. But during pregnancy, cramping can be really scary. Every time it happens, I start imagining the worst, so much so that I almost hope for it to be an IBS flare.

Another problem is that I know from my previous pregnancy how much contractions can upset my digestive system. This makes such situations even more difficult to assess. What if it’s not a flare but real contractions, and diarrhea is a consequence rather than a cause?

Fasting or eating: the eternal dilemma

When I’m not pregnant, the choice between fasting and eating is an easy one. Fasting, it’s always fasting. But that isn’t quite so simple when you also have morning sickness and dizziness to deal with.

Having an empty stomach, especially in my first trimester, makes me feel really, really sick, and the only way to calm down the nausea is to eat. However, my digestive tract also needs rest from food. That's even more important when I'm trying to recover from an IBS flare, and eating will send me right back to the bathroom. What is a girl to do?

In the end, IBS seems to always win. Nausea is terrible, but a bad flare is even worse. So, I fast and just deal with feeling sick. But it’s not fun.

Have you ever dealt with IBS flares during early pregnancy? If yes, how did you cope?

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