Occasional constipation isn’t usually cause for concern. But if constipation has become routine, it’s a sign that something is wrong. Most of the time, eating more fiber, drinking more water, and moving your body more helps.
But if you’ve been struggling with chronic constipation that hasn’t responded to dietary changes and increased exercise, a gynecological issue could be the cause. This is because your pelvis holds both your digestive system and your reproductive system, and an issue with one can affect the other.
Board-certified OB/GYN Daniel S. Kushner, MD, can help identify the source of your constipation and rule in or out related gynecological issues. At his private practice in White Plains and Queens, New York, Dr. Kushner offers many women’s health services to help you feel your best.
Could your constipation be related to a gynecological problem instead of your diet? These issues may be to blame.
1. Uterine fibroids
Many women develop uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous tumors that grow in your uterus. The tumors develop out of muscle fibers and vary in size from tiny to quite large (around the size of a grapefruit).
Fibroids aren’t cancerous, but that doesn’t mean they don’t cause troublesome symptoms — including constipation, which can develop when your fibroids put pressure on your digestive tract. This can make it difficult to pass a bowel movement.
The good news is that different treatments exist for uterine fibroids. The right treatment for you depends on their size and the symptoms you’re experiencing. Dr. Kushner may recommend one or a combination of the following therapies:
- Oral medication
- Hormonal therapy
- Endometrial ablation
- Uterine artery embolization (UAE)
Some fibroids may require surgical interventions, such as a hysterectomy (uterus removal) or a myomectomy (fibroid removal).
At least 10% of women have a condition called endometriosis, which results when the lining of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of its normal location. Your endometrium sheds each month when you get your period, but if it’s outside of the uterus, it thickens and tries to break down month after month but doesn’t have anywhere to go.
As a result, it causes inflammation and irritation to the surrounding tissues. Over time, this leads to scar tissue and other problematic — and painful — complications, including intestinal distress.
Constipation, diarrhea, painful or difficult bowel movements, and other intestinal distress are common signs of endometriosis when the tissue grows on, near, or around your intestinal tract. In fact, research indicates that many women who were diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome actually have bowel endometriosis.
3. Pelvic organ prolapse
When the muscles that support your vagina, uterus, rectum, and bladder (the pelvic floor muscles) get weak, it can cause your pelvic floor to bulge. This condition is called pelvic organ prolapse, and it may trigger many frustrating symptoms, including constipation.
You develop constipation from pelvic organ prolapse when the weakness occurs in the tissues between the vagina and rectum, causing the rectum to bulge into your vagina. This is called a rectocele, and it can lead to stool getting trapped behind the bulge, making it difficult to move your bowels.
4. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS results due to hormonal imbalances, primarily having too many androgens and too much insulin in your system. These hormonal imbalances cause your body to create ovarian cysts each month when you body gets ready to release an egg during ovulation.
The condition leads to troublesome symptoms, including irregular periods, excess acne, weight gain, excess body and facial hair, skin changes, thin hair, infertility, and constipation.
In fact, many women with PCOS are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. Researchers believe PCOS may contribute to constipation because the insulin resistance PCOS causes leads to gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance in gut bacteria, which can trigger constipation.
If you’re struggling with constipation and making dietary changes hasn’t helped, it’s time to find out if a gynecological issue could be the cause. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Kushner today — online or over the phone — at one of his New York offices.