Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive disorder that affects the large intestine. It causes uncomfortable symptoms, such as abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, and diarrhea, constipation, or both.

While anyone can develop IBS, the condition is more common in women, affecting from 1.5 to 3 times more females than males.

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

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

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

Studies show 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 sometimes call IBS-D, seems to be more prevalent in men, but women often experience a worsening of diarrhea just before the start of their menstrual period.

Diarrhea is classified as frequent loose stools, often with lower abdominal pain and cramping that improves after a bowel movement. You may also notice mucus in your stool.

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.

Women with IBS are more likely to experience more bloating during certain stages of their menstrual cycle than women without IBS. Having certain gynecological conditions, such as endometriosis, can also worsen bloating.

Postmenopausal women with IBS also report experiencing significantly more bloating and abdominal distention than men with the condition.

A small study from 2010 found that women with IBS are more likely to experience lower urinary tract symptoms that women without the condition.

The most common symptoms included:

There’s evidence that women with IBS are more likely to experience pelvic organ prolapse. This happens when the muscles and tissues holding the pelvic organs become weak or loose, leading to the organs falling out of place.

Chronic constipation and diarrhea associated with IBS increase the risk of prolapse.

Types of pelvic organ prolapse include:

Chronic pelvic pain, which is pain below the belly button, is a common concern among women with IBS. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders refers to a study in which one-third of women with IBS reported having long-lasting pelvic pain.

Pain during intercourse and other types of sexual dysfunction are known IBS symptoms in females. Pain during sex is more likely to occur during deep penetration.

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

There is evidence supporting a worsening of menstrual symptoms in women with IBS. Many women also report a worsening of IBS symptoms during certain phases of the menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations appear to play a role.

IBS can also cause your periods to be heavier and more painful.

Fatigue is a common symptom of IBS, but there’s evidence that it may affect more women than men.

Researchers have linked fatigue in people with IBS to a number of factors, including poor sleep quality and insomnia. The severity of IBS symptoms can also impact the level of fatigue someone experiences.

IBS has been linked to mood and anxiety disorders, such as depression. The numbers of men and women with IBS who report having depression and anxiety are similar, but more women report experiencing stress than men.

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

Other risk factors include:

  • being under the age of 50
  • having a family history of IBS
  • having a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety

If you’re experiencing any IBS symptoms, it’s best to follow up with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis, especially if you have a higher risk of developing IBS.

There is no definitive test for IBS. Instead, your healthcare provider will begin with your medical history and symptoms. They’ll likely order tests to rule out other conditions.

Doctors may eliminate other conditions by using some of these tests:

Depending on your medical history, you’ll likely receive an IBS diagnosis if you experience:

  • abdominal symptoms lasting at least one day a week for the past three months
  • pain and discomfort that are relieved by having a bowel movement
  • a consistent change in the frequency or consistency of your bowel movements
  • the presence of mucus in your stool

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, likely due to female sex hormones.

If your symptoms end up stemming from IBS, a combination of lifestyle changes, home remedies, and medical treatments can help you manage these symptoms.