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Bowel Issues Affect 3 Out of 4 Pregnant Women

FRIDAY May 24, 2013 -- Nearly three out of four pregnant women experience bowel problems such as constipation and diarrhea, but these issues don't significantly affect their quality of life, a new study finds.

Researchers from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., noted that these bowel issues are due to physiological and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Nutritional supplements that women take during pregnancy also can play a role. The study authors added that since women expect these problems to arise during pregnancy, they're better able to tolerate them.

The study included 104 women in their first trimester of pregnancy and 66 women in their third trimester. They completed two questionnaires: one asking about the bowel disorders they experienced and another on how these problems affected their quality of life. Specifically, the women were asked if their bowel issues made life less enjoyable, limited what they could wear or eat, or made them feel embarrassed, vulnerable, angry, isolated or depressed.

The study revealed that 72 percent of the first-trimester respondents and 61 percent of the third-trimester respondents had one or more bowel disorders, including constipation, diarrhea, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.

On a scale of one to 100, with 100 being the least impact on quality of life, the women's average score was 94.9. The researchers said two issues had a measurable effect on quality of life: Both constipation and bloating reduced the quality-of-life score by approximately four points.

Study senior author Dr. Scott Graziano, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, advises pregnant women to drink plenty of fluids and consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily. The study found that pregnant women consume only 16 to 17 grams of fiber a day. Stool softeners and suppositories are safe for pregnant women, Graziano said.

The study's findings were presented earlier this month at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' annual meeting in New Orleans. Data and conclusions from studies presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more on common problems affecting the digestive system.

Posted: May 2013


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