The menstrual cycle and its effect on inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome: a prevalence study

Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Oct;93(10):1867-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1998.540_i.x.


Objective: Female patients with bowel disease commonly report worsening symptoms in relation to the menstrual cycle. Our aim was to determine the nature of gastrointestinal symptoms correlating with the menstrual cycle in women with inflammatory and irritable bowel disease.

Methods: This was a retrospective study involving 49 women with ulcerative colitis (UC), 49 women with Crohn's disease (CD), 46 women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and 90 healthy community controls. Participants were interviewed using a questionnaire including information regarding general health, medication history, pregnancy, as well as premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Chi2 testing and logistic regression modeling were used to test for differences in frequencies between groups and for risk analysis.

Results: Premenstrual symptoms were reported by 93% of all women but statistically more often by patients with CD (p < 0.01). CD patients were also more likely to report increased gastrointestinal symptoms during menstruation ( < 0.01), diarrhea being the symptom reported most often. All disease groups had a cyclical pattern to their bowel habits significantly more than controls (p=0.01). Cyclical symptoms included diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation. Logistic regression revealed an odds ratio (OR) of 1.1 (95% CI 0.9-1.2) for experiencing bowel symptoms during the premenstrual and menstrual phases and an OR of 2.0 (95% CI 1.2-3.2) for experiencing a cyclical pattern in bowel habit changes in women with bowel disease.

Conclusion: The prevalence of menstrually related symptoms is high, and appears to affect bowel patterns. The physiological and clinical effects of the menstrual cycle should be taken into consideration when assessing for disease activity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / epidemiology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / physiopathology*
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / epidemiology
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / physiopathology*
  • Crohn Disease / epidemiology
  • Crohn Disease / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment