Is There a Connection Between IBS and Infertility?

Men and women who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) might have a higher risk of infertility, and this can be due to some shared underlying factors. Let's take a look at the connections.

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IBS, Endometriosis, and Infertility

Endometriosis is a gynecological disease in which endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. Although the connection between endometriosis and infertility is not clear-cut, a high number of women who have endometriosis also have fertility difficulties.

Research indicates that women who have endometriosis are also at a higher risk of having IBS. If you have any concerns that you may have endometriosis alongside your IBS, speak with your gynecologist.

Gluten Sensitivity and Infertility

There is research that indicates that women who have celiac disease are at higher risk for infertility. On a related note, women, and perhaps men, who have unexplained infertility are at higher risk for having celiac disease. People who have IBS are at a higher risk for having undiagnosed celiac disease and are often screened for the condition.

What is less clear is whether a person who has a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a condition that may underlie some cases of IBS, is also at a higher risk for infertility.

Prostatitis, IBS, and Infertility

Prostatitis is a condition in which men have inflammation or an infection in the prostate gland. Prostatitis is considered to be a cause of infertility in men. Men who have chronic prostatitis are at higher risk of having IBS. If you are male and are experiencing bladder symptoms alongside your IBS, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.

Other Reproductive Health Conditions That Cause Abdominal Pain

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which means that it isn't accompanied by visible inflammation or signs of disease. Thus, your IBS is most likely not causing any damage to any nearby organs, such as those of the reproductive system.

Several reproductive health conditions that contribute to fertility difficulties can cause abdominal pain. Unlike IBS, these conditions are likely to be identified based on diagnostic testing. So if you have IBS and are having difficulty getting pregnant, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider—your abdominal pain might not be from your IBS.

Reproductive health conditions that can cause abdominal pain include:

Bottom Line

Links between IBS and infertility are not common and most likely are not direct. If you are experiencing infertility alongside your IBS, be sure that you have consulted with both a gastroenterologist as well as a gynecologist so you can have a diagnosis of any underlying health problems, like endometriosis, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, prostatitis or other relevant reproductive illness. Once you have firm diagnoses, you can work with your medical team on proper treatment or management of each.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Freeman HJ. Reproductive changes associated with celiac diseaseWorld J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(46):5810–5814. doi:10.3748/wjg.v16.i46.5810

  4. Bold J, Rostami K. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and reproductive disordersGastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench. 8(4):294–297.

  5. Alshahrani S, Mcgill J, Agarwal A. Prostatitis and male infertility. J Reprod Immunol. 2013;100(1):30-6. doi:10.1016/j.jri.2013.05.004

  6. Vicari E, La Vignera S, Arcoria D, et al. High frequency of chronic bacterial and non-inflammatory prostatitis in infertile patients with prostatitis syndrome plus irritable bowel syndromePLoS One. 2011;6(4):e18647. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018647

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.