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
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.
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.
The most common symptoms included:
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.
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.
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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:
- stool culture
- CT scan
- lactose intolerance test
- gluten intolerance test
Depending on your medical history, you’ll likely receive an IBS diagnosis if you experience:
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.