Diagnosis and management of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and diarrhea in pregnancy

Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 1992 Dec;21(4):793-802.


Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and diarrhea may complicate a pregnancy. Complaints of IBS and constipation may be managed by nonpharmaceutical methods. A careful history should be conducted to determine whether these complaints are of an acute or a long-standing nature. Conservative treatment of IBS is recommended and may include stool-bulking agents, a high-fiber diet, elimination of offensive foods, and the behavioral treatment of passive muscle relaxation, biofeedback or supportive psychotherapy. Constipation is generally self-limiting. It also may be treated conservatively with stool-bulking agents, increases in dietary fiber, and the addition of pelvic muscle exercises, preferably using electromyographic biofeedback. Laxatives should be used judiciously (Table 1). Diarrhea is caused most often by infectious agents in pregnancy but may also be from food poisoning or a viral disease. Infectious diarrhea may be treated by mild antidiarrheal agents and safe antibiotics. Fluid replacement is the mainstay of treatment, and care should be taken, remembering that the treatment involves two patients. These complaints can generally be managed conservatively, but persistent cases should be investigated as in a nonpregnant patient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colonic Diseases, Functional* / diagnosis
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional* / epidemiology
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional* / etiology
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional* / therapy
  • Constipation* / diagnosis
  • Constipation* / epidemiology
  • Constipation* / etiology
  • Constipation* / therapy
  • Diarrhea* / diagnosis
  • Diarrhea* / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea* / etiology
  • Diarrhea* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications* / etiology
  • Pregnancy Complications* / therapy