Irritable bowel syndrome may increase risk of miscarriage


WOMEN WITH Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are more likely to suffer from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, according to new research by University College Cork (UCC) and the University of Manchester.

While the researchers are keen to reassure pregnant women with the common condition of IBS that their overall risk of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy is still small, they say the study illustrates the importance of IBS and why it deserves serious research attention.

The findings, which were published in the international academic journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, were based on a large database of 100,000 women derived from general practices in the UK.

The study found that pregnant women with IBS were 7 per cent more likely to have a miscarriage than those unaffected, while there was a 1 per cent increase in ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening complication of early pregnancy.

Dr Louise Kenny of the Anu Research Centre at UCC said these findings also indicated the importance of prenatal care for women with IBS.

One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and one in 100 pregnancies is ectopic. As the cause of many miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies is unknown, these findings are potentially important, according to Dr Kenny.

Prof Eamonn Quigley of the alimentary pharmabiotic centre at UCC pointed out that miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy were the only two complications of pregnancy where the outcomes were different in women with IBS, though the increased risk was very slight.

However, he said: “This research provides further evidence of the importance of IBS and is a new illustration of how IBS could cause problems outside of the gut. More research is needed to determine why IBS patients should have increased risks in pregnancy.”

IBS is one of the most common disorders of the gut, and sufferers typically complain of abdominal discomfort, bloating and difficulty with their bowels. The condition is most common among women in their late teens to early 40s, and little is known about what happens to IBS during pregnancy or how IBS affects the outcome of pregnancy.