Bowel problems

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

This is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of abdominal pain together with altered bowel habits (such as loose stools, increased or decreased frequency of bowel movements and constipation). IBS is characterised by periods of stomach cramps, feeling bloated, diarrhoea and constipation. There is often an absence of any obvious mechanical cause. 

Possible symptoms can include:

  • Stomach pain and cramping which may pass with a bowel movement.
  • Low back pain.
  • A change in bowel habits where the bowels move through periods of diarrhoea, constipation or sometimes both.
  • Excessive wind (flatulence).
  • A sensation of the abdomen bloating and swelling.
  • A sensation that you want to have another bowel movement even when you have just had one, as if the bowel hasn’t emptied properly.
  • Passing mucus from the anus.

For more information about irritable bowel syndrome, its treatment and management, visit: and NICE guidance on Irritable bowel syndrome in adults.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

IBD is a term mainly used to describe two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are long-term (chronic) conditions that involve inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (gut).

Ulcerative colitis

In this condition, inflammation affects only the colon (large intestine).

Crohn’s disease

This condition can affect the whole of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus.

The main symptoms of both conditions are similar. They can include:

  • Pain, bloating and swelling within the abdomen, or cramps.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Recurring diarrhoea which may include traces of blood and mucus.
  • Weight loss.

For more information about ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, their treatment and management, visit: and NICE guidance on Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis.

Diverticular disease and diverticulitis

These are two related conditions where inflammation affects the colon (large intestine). In diverticular disease, small bulges or pockets (diverticula) develop in the lining of the intestine. The condition becomes diverticulitis when these pockets become inflamed or infected.

Possible symptoms can include:

  • Diverticular disease may show no obvious symptoms at all.
  • When the condition becomes inflamed or infected in diverticulitis, the symptoms are more serious and more obvious.
  • Severe abdominal pain on the left side.
  • A high temperature (fever) of over 38°C (100.4°F) and possibly nausea.
  • Diarrhoea or frequent bowel movements.

For more information about diverticular disease and diverticulitis, their treatment and management, visit: 

Faecal incontinence

Faecal incontinence occurs when stools or diarrhoea escape before managing to get to a toilet. This is usually because of a physical problem with areas of the body that control the bowel.

Possible symptoms can include:

  • Problems with the rectum.
  • Inefficient sphincter or pelvic floor muscles.
  • Problems due to damaged nerves.

For more information about faecal incontinence, its treatment and management, visit: our ‘Pelvic floor and PGP’ web page and 

Return to ‘If it’s not PGP, then what could it be?’ page.

Content added in 2017.

Charity Registered in England: 1100373                                           © Copyright Pelvic Partnership 2017
Please note, the Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had Pelvic Girdle Pain and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on research evidence where available. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice. The Pelvic Partnership takes no responsibility for any action you do or do not take as a result of reading this information.
This website was built by Jigsaw Web Design Ltd  ~ Website content reviewed and updated: 2016 – 2017   

Charity Registered in England: 1100373 

The Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on both research and the experience of other women with PGP. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice and the information we provide should not take the place of advice and guidance from your own health-care providers. Material on this site is provided for information and support purposes only.

   © Copyright Pelvic Partnership 2021

This website was built by Jigsaw Web Design Ltd

We would also like to acknowledge the support of the National Lottery's Corononavirus Community Support Fund, which funded our COVID-19 Response Project. 

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