Pregnant women with a common bowel condition may be 20 per cent more likely to miscarry, according to new research.
The study is the first to look at the links between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and miscarriage and suggests that pregnant women with the condition should receive additional antenatal care.
The research examined information from the GP records of 100,000 British women who became pregnant between January 1990 and December 2008. Of those, more than 26,000 had suffered from IBS, a chronic condition causing pain and bloating.
Pregnant women with a bowel condition may be 20 per cent more likely to miscarry, according to new research
The researchers found that 6,500 – six per cent – of the women suffered a miscarriage, which is within the normal range.
But when they looked at the women who also had IBS, the proportion who lost their babies rose to 7.5 per cent, which is considered significant.
The risk increased further – up to 30 per cent – if the women also had pre-existing problems with depression and anxiety. IBS is linked with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain, and researchers said these conditions should also be studied to see if they caused miscarriage.
The study was by a team from University College Cork in Ireland and the University of Manchester. One of the authors, Dr Ali Khashan, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at University College Cork, said: ‘We think this will open the eyes of clinicians and GPs to the possibility women who have IBS should be cared for in a certain way if pregnant.’
IBS is a common condition of the digestive system causing painful bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. While there is no cure, the symptoms can be relieved by altering diet and managed by medication.
However, obstetrician Virginia Beckett, of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, urged caution over the findings. ‘IBS is often misdiagnosed and there can be other underlying problems which may contribute to miscarriage,’ she said. ‘Women should ensure they take folic acid throughout pregnancy as it reduces the risk of miscarriage. They should also stop smoking, lose weight and eat healthily.’
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