'My severe bloating makes me look 9 months pregnant - strangers ask when I'm due'

Sarah Mason's IBS causes persistent bloating. (SWNS)
Sarah Mason's IBS causes persistent bloating. (SWNS)

A woman with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) says her bloating is so severe that it leaves her looking ‘nine months pregnant’ — and strangers even ask her when she’s due.

Sarah Mason, 51, has faced bloating from IBS for over two decades since she was diagnosed at the age of 30, and says the condition has even meant that she is unable to work.

"It's a horrible feeling to feel so bloated all the time - it's not just looking pregnant, it's the constant churning in my stomach,” Mason, a self-employed cleaner from York, says.

"When it's bad I can't wear any tight clothing, I have to wear trousers with an elasticated waist or jeggings. I never wear dresses anymore, I’ve become so self-conscious.

"It's embarrassing when you're going shopping and get people coming up to you saying, 'Oh, not long until your baby is due. It's not nice, I'm definitely not pregnant at my age."

Single mum Mason currently lives at home with her daughter Sophie, 23, and says her IBS is worse when she’s stressed, which is often caused by her osteoarthritis.

"I recently had a back operation last October where surgeons removed part of my bone from my back to ease the pain,” she explains.

"Initially it helped, but the pain has come back, which then causes me stress which makes my bloating much worse – it's a horrible vicious cycle."

Sarah's IBS causes swelling in her stomach. (SWNS)
Sarah's IBS causes swelling in her stomach. (SWNS)

At times, during an IBS flare up, Mason’s bloating can get ‘so bad’ that she has to wear size 20 clothing, despite normally being a size 14 to 16.

"I have to take laxatives most days to go to the toilet, most days it works but if I don't take laxatives I won't go to the toilet for three to four days," Mason says.

The NHS estimates that around 13 million people in the UK suffer from IBS, which can present itself as IBS-C (constipation is the primary symptom) or IBS-D (diarrhoea is the main symptom).

Stomach cramps and bloating are also two of the major symptoms of either type of IBS and can come and go, but can last for weeks or even months at a time – which can greatly impact the person’s quality of life.

There is currently no cure to IBS and it is a lifelong problem, but there are some ways to manage it.

Sarah says strangers have assumed she's pregnant. (SWNS)
Sarah says strangers have assumed she's pregnant. (SWNS)

The NHS recommends keeping a diary of what you eat and any symptoms you see – this way you can find your ‘trigger foods’, or the foods that lead to unpleasant symptoms.

By finding these foods, you can try to cut them out of your diet to see if symptoms improve.

Another method of this is an elimination diet, or even the low FODMAP diet, which sees you cut certain known trigger foods for a period of time, and then slowly reintroduce them to see which foods cause the most grief.

The NHS also recommends finding ways to relax, getting in exercise, cooking meals at home, and trying probiotics.

With probiotics, these can make a person feel bloated at first if their body isn’t used to it, but this should go down eventually.

For more information on IBS and how to manage it, visit nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs.

Additional reporting by SWNS.