Men and women with IBS often have similar symptoms. Still, some symptoms like fatigue and worsened menstrual symptoms may be more common in or exclusive to women.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive disorder that affects the large intestine. It can cause uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, and bloating. It may also cause diarrhea, constipation, or both.

While anyone can develop IBS, the condition is more common in women, with a prevalence of 12% in women versus 8.6% in men.

Many of the symptoms of IBS in females are the same as those in males, but some women report that symptoms get worse during their menstrual cycle.

Here’s a look at some common symptoms in women.

Constipation is a common IBS symptom. It causes infrequent stools that are hard, dry, and difficult to pass.

Research indicates that constipation is one symptom of IBS that’s more common in females. Women have also reported more symptoms that are associated with constipation, such as abdominal pain and bloating.

IBS with diarrhea, which doctors often call IBS-D, seems to be more prevalent in men, but women may experience a worsening of diarrhea and other symptoms during their menstrual cycle.

Diarrhea is classified as frequent loose stools, often with lower abdominal pain and cramping that improves after a bowel movement. You may also have nausea and difficulty controlling bowel movements.

Bloating is a common symptom of IBS. It can cause you to feel tightness in your upper abdomen and to get full faster after eating. It’s also frequently an early symptom of menstruation.

The menstrual cycle may worsen IBS symptoms, and some research has found that more than 50% of women with IBS experience abdominal bloating during their menstrual cycle.

A 2017 study found that women with IBS were more likely to experience lower urinary tract symptoms than women without the condition.

There was an increased risk of symptoms including:

Some research indicates that compared to women with constipation, women with IBS are more likely to experience pelvic organ prolapse symptoms. This happens when the muscles and tissues holding the pelvic organs become weak or loose, leading to the organs falling out of place.

Types of pelvic organ prolapse include:

Chronic pelvic pain, which is pain below the belly button, is a common concern among women with IBS. A study from 2018 found that IBS occurred more often in women with chronic pelvic pain than in the general population, suggesting a possible link between these conditions.

Pain during intercourse and other types of sexual dysfunction are known IBS symptoms in women. Research also indicates that women with IBS may be more likely to avoid sexual intercourse than men with the condition.

Some people with IBS report a lack of sexual desire and difficulty getting aroused. This can lead to insufficient lubrication in women, which can also cause sex to be painful.

There is research indicating a worsening of PMS symptoms in women with IBS. IBS can also cause your periods to be heavier and more painful.

Many women also report a worsening of IBS symptoms during certain phases of the menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations appear to play a role.

Fatigue is a common symptom of IBS, but research indicates that it may affect women more than men.

Researchers have linked fatigue in people with IBS to several factors, including poor sleep quality and insomnia. The severity of IBS symptoms may also impact fatigue levels.

Research indicates that IBS may cause migraine, with women in particular frequently experiencing this symptom. A 2017 study also suggested that women who had both IBS and migraine were more likely to experience symptoms like anxiety and chronic pelvic pain.

IBS has been linked to mood and anxiety disorders, such as depression. Some research indicates that women with IBS report more depression and anxiety than men with the condition.

Experts still aren’t sure what causes IBS. There are several things that can increase your risk, though, including being a woman.

Other risk factors include:

  • being under the age of 50
  • having a family history of IBS
  • experiencing stressful events early in life
  • having a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety
  • experiencing digestive issues after eating certain foods
  • having a bacterial infection in your digestive tract

If you’re experiencing any IBS symptoms, it’s important to talk with your doctor, especially if you have a higher risk of developing IBS.

There is no definitive test for IBS. Instead, your doctor will begin with your medical history and symptoms. They may also rule out other conditions by ordering tests like:

Depending on your medical history, you may receive an IBS diagnosis if you experience:

  • abdominal symptoms lasting at least 1 day a week for the past 3 months
  • pain and discomfort linked to bowel movements
  • a consistent change in the frequency of your bowel movements
  • stool that looks different than in the past

Women receive IBS diagnoses more often than men do. While many of the symptoms are the same for males and females, a few are exclusive to or more prominent in women, possibly related to female sex hormones.

If you have IBS symptoms, a combination of lifestyle changes, home remedies, and medical treatments may help you manage them.