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A woman lies on her side, clutching her stomach in pain.

IBS – A Female Perspective

IBS isn’t fun for anyone – I honestly don’t think that it makes any difference whether you’re male or female. And yet, I feel like some specific struggles are probably more prominent for women. Or am I wrong?

“Women don’t poop!”

Let’s talk about the most obvious one first: women don’t poop. Like, ever. And when they do, they do it secretly so that no one notices. Seriously, how often do you hear women talk about bowel movements, or anything related to that? In my case, not often at all. Guys, however, seem to have no problem with that. For some reason, it’s totally normal for a guy to say that he’s got to go poop and you better not go near the bathroom. I’ve honestly never heard a woman announce that. And yet when you have IBS, there’s no getting around the topic. I feel like this one must be easier when you’re a guy. But maybe that’s just because the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence.

IBS and relationships

Obviously, IBS impacts relationships for both men and women. But here, we have to deal with that same stigma that women are supposed to be superior creatures who don’t deal with bowel movements.

At the beginning of my relationship with my boyfriend, I was living in a tiny studio with a bathroom door that didn’t really close. He slept over all of the time, and yet I avoided using the bathroom of my own apartment for almost the entire first year, just because I didn’t want him to think that I was gross. Thankfully I didn’t have IBS yet at that point! And yes, I know how stupid this sounds – we all need to use the bathroom, after all! But that’s still how I felt.

IBS is not the sexiest condition to have. And while it’s not a problem to talk about it with your long-term partner, I suppose that it would make dating a little harder. Oh, and let’s talk about how feeling ill more often can impact a physical relationship. Or actually, I think you can imagine.

IBS and contraception

To stay on the relationship topic, let’s talk about contraception. Or the fact that you can never trust the birth control pill when you constantly have diarrhea. I’ve been taking birth control for years, and I always, always had the same problem: they say that it doesn’t work when you get diarrhea after taking the pill. Yet when I took it in the morning, I often got diarrhea afterward! Thanks, morning IBS.

Since mornings weren’t working too well, I did try taking it at night. But for some reason, I just couldn’t remember to take it every day at night. And the pill doesn’t work if you forget it, either…Long story short, I was constantly scared about getting pregnant. Maybe the birth control pill is not a good choice for IBS sufferers. I feel much less stressed since I stopped taking mine.

Women love brunch

For some reason, women love to go out for brunch. But my IBS really, really hates it. It’s not just the fact that my boyfriend kind of expected me to go brunching with him (all his friends to that with their girlfriends). In addition to that, my girlfriends keep inviting me to brunch every time we make plans. And I keep declining, over and over again.

Honestly, I’ve never seen two guy friends go brunching together. Except for that episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” but that’s a different story. They seem to always go for a drink instead (which would work much better for me). Really, it must be easier to be a guy with this one.

The non-existent bikini body with IBS

Every spring, lots of women around me start preparing their bodies for summer. Eating even healthier, exercising, the whole package. After all, they want to look good in a bathing suit in a couple of months! Well, I don’t even bother. Let’s be real: the only way I can look good in a bathing suit is if I’ve been to the bathroom 6 times in the morning and haven’t had any food since.

But as soon as I eat the smallest little thing, my stomach gets bloated. Not badly bloated, it doesn’t even bother me. But bloated enough so that it’s never flat. And if I don’t eat for too long, I somehow get the same thing. Apparently, IBS can also impact an empty stomach. All in all, I’ve just abandoned the idea of a bikini body. And eating super healthy doesn’t work for me anyway, because vegetables make me feel so bloated. Thanks again, IBS.

Periods make IBS worse

Maybe it’s just me, but periods tend to add that little bit of punch to my IBS. Even more cramps and pain, even more bloating, and time spent in the bathroom. When I was still working at a corporate job, I had to make sure that my periods would come on the weekend (with the help of that birth control pill I never trusted.) Otherwise, I just wasn’t able to go to work. Now that I work from home, it doesn’t make that much of a difference anymore, but still: Whenever I’m on my period, I better not leave my house for too long.

Do you agree that these things particularly impact women with IBS? Or do you maybe have a completely different experience with that? I would love to know!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • greenvillegirl
    3 weeks ago

    Agree with all the above points. Living with IBS-D is horrible and fir m3 i5 has been 25 years. My new GI doctor just gave me prescription for pancreas enzymes as pancreas might be out of whack since the pancreas produces enzymes that help digest you4 foods. Those are working for me for one week now along with pure psyllium every night and watch what I eat, I am almost 83 years old and tired and embarrassed with all the excuses I have to make. Constantly trying to find the right regiment to be normal. Also I do not have a gall bladder anymore. But right now the enzymes and psyllium are working for me. I still wear pads (my insurance policy) and always carry extra underwear in my purse. I neve4 trust IBS.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @greenvillegirl,

    I don’t trust IBS either :-). I am glad that you have found something that might be of some help. Hopefully it will continue to provide some relief in the weeks to come. Please keep us updated. Thank you for sharing and I hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net

  • Lynda
    3 weeks ago

    My IBS-D is really ‘shitty.’ Excuse the pun. Not only does it keep me home too much, but it really terrifies me to go out & not know exactly where the restrooms are located. I have to wear pads, in case of accidents. Yes, plural – pads! And I am post menopausal, I thought they were history! Ugh! Years ago I had to have a hemorroidectomy, and the surgeon cut my anal sphincter. I have absolutely no control. When I have to go, it is immediately, like right now. So I rush to bathroom. I’m taking a lot of Imodium & have to schedule appointments in the afternoon, and pray the Imodium works. I’ve tried all the meds for IBS-D with no success. My poor husband tries to understand, but never having a problem, he just doesn’t get it. Bedtime is another problem, as already mentioned GAS, flatulence! Fortunately my husband goes to sleep quickly & doesn’t wake up when I am up and down all night. The colon spasms are excruciating and occur most frequently when I am just falling to sleep. The only saving grace is that both of us are retired, I had to go on disability retirement quite awhile ago. So when I get control on a good day we can have sex. I hate to admit it, but my bowels have even interfered with that. Luckily, I have been able to make it to the bathroom without an accident. But it sure affects the mood. I do my best, but I know he wants more. I can’t go to church in the morning, and won’t schedule anything b4 11 & prefer after 1 pm. Life is supposed to get better when you retire, right? If I go without eating, it’s better but I also have migraines & not eating is a trigger. Sure makes life a lot more complicated. I do my best to maintain a positive attitude & have even been able to travel a little. Though my suitcase is full of depends & pads and Imodium!

  • tmholland moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @lynda,

    Thank you for sharing your story, Lynda. Having an open and honest dialogue is very important to the community and to others who are feeling alone with this very difficult illness. Keep trying to maintain that positive attitude. I hope today is a good one for you. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • ExplodingGuts
    3 weeks ago

    Women also hide underwear at the dr’s office. These are cultural lessons that help give us certainty about our roles and expectations, but they’re not gospel. Love and pregnancy and illness, such as IBS, often change these definitions, roles and expectations. Let them change. Embrace what feels right, let go of the rest.

    Brunch is highly overrated. Surely friends understand illness.

    So many social events require overlong periods of time without adequate access to washrooms, such as theatres. I’ve mostly stopped going except to short one-hour max concerts. In the off hours, I do my best to complain to city planning depts about the need for greater washroom access. I tell musical and theatrical providers to make shorter concerts or add intermissions. If they fail to heed the warning, they will lose subscribers as they lost me. Too bad for them.

    I live in a city that develops parks without washrooms so that people use the bushes instead. That’s not healthy in a modern urban setting but they say the city doesn’t have the money. Nothing but money for unused bike lanes (It’s Canada – we get winter!) but none for toilets.

    It’s an uphill battle but we’re an aging population so we have the numbers. It’s a nuisance but I feel we’ll prevail eventually.

    In short: Friends either understand or they’re not friends.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @explodingguts,

    Hey, there. Thanks so much for your insightful thoughts on an interesting topic. I tend to agree about the friends. I don’t necessarily need them to ‘understand’, but I need friends to at the very least, try. Thanks again and I hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • Holly5757
    3 weeks ago

    I cannot like this article more!! I have IBS-C most of the time. But it has still interfered in every part of my life. I actually despise sleeping with anyone. ( yes, actually sleeping. Sex is a whole other story with IBS) Between my belly making God awful noises all night, I cannot get comfortable, and the gas….OMG the gas!!!! It’s like once I lay down for a few minutes, all of it that was trapped during the day decides to work its way out. And what female wants to be THAT girl!? I actually did a little happy dance when my husband said he had to work 3rd shift now. I don’t have to worry about sleep etiquette.
    Like it is said here, doesn’t matter if/what I eat or if I even have an empty stomach the bloating and gas is all the same. I pray for a cure. 🙂

  • tmholland moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @holly5757,

    I’m glad the article resonated with you. I want to thank you for sharing your feelings on subjects that so many of us can relate to. It makes the community stronger and more supportive. I hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

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