‘Strangers think I’m pregnant but I’m just bloated – I can’t walk with the pain’

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A mother-of-one is constantly mistaken for being pregnant, with strangers not realizing that her “baby bump” is in fact due to severe, and very painful, bloating

Franchesca Flack in hospital crying
Franchesca has suffered from chronic constipation her whole life

A mum-of-one has opened up about suffering from life-long chronic constipation, which stops her from walking or even sitting down properly.

Franchesca Flack, from Essex, says she is constantly mistaken for being pregnant by strangers, who don’t understand that she’s actually experiencing extreme bloating due to being “blocked up”.

The 35-year-old fashion writer suffers from pain every single day, regularly experiencing pelvic pain, backache, and intense discomfort as well as constipation.

Franchesca was told she probably had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in her mid-teens and was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel illness, in her mid-20s.

By this point, her excessive bloating led to her stomach “expanding” beneath her clothes, with her bloating continuing to worsen in the years since.







Franchesca was first diagnosed with IBS as a teenager
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Image:

JamPress)







Her bloating has worsened over the years
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Image:

JamPress)

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Franchesca said: “It has impacted my life in every way and I feel my confidence plummet every time I look in my wardrobe and try to decide what to wear.

“I don’t like my body because of the bloating and in any outfit, my eyes are instantly drawn to my stomach. I have no body confidence left, which I’ve always struggled with it but it’s now at an all-time low.

“Often I prop a large bag in front of my tummy [when I’m out] to hide any bloat, and I feel paranoid that others are judging me – I feel ugly and insecure.

“I know I have health conditions, but I can’t seem to accept it and look at my body proudly.”







Franchesca felt her body confidence “plummet” due to her bloating
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Image:

JamPress)

Although doctors initially insisted that her bloating was connected to her other conditions, Franchesca realized there was something else going on after she gave birth to her daughter Mia in 2020.

Just 24 hours after the birth, Franchesca was left in “unbearable pain”, which she compared to having contractions.

Franchesca recalled: “I hadn’t emptied my bowels or passed wind in over in a week. I was sent back to hospital but my daughter needed feeding at the same time, so I had to [do this] while still being in unbearable pain.”







Franchesca realized something else going on after giving birth to her daughter
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Image:

JamPress)







Franchesca’s condition took a turn after she had her gallbladder removed in 2022
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Image:

JamPress)

In February 2022, Franchesca’s condition took a turn after she had her gallbladder removed, with the high level of medication required for surgery leading to complications with her bladder.

She said: “I then realized I hadn’t been for a wee since that morning and the nurses became worried. I was in tears from the amount of pressure on my bladder.

“I felt extremely frustrated and angry at my body, as my constipation had now caused my bladder to stop working.”







After a CT scan, doctors now believe her issues are due to another condition
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Image:

JamPress)

Determined to find the root cause of her problems, Franchesca pushed for a second opinion a few weeks later.

After giving her a CT scan, doctors realized just how serious the issue was, and now believe it’s caused by a different condition.

Franchesca is currently awaiting a colonic transit and defecating proctogram, an examination of her lower bowel and rectum function, and a referral to the pelvic floor unit.

She’s also taking various medications to ease her symptoms, which she says, unfortunately, don’t do much to help.

Going forward, Franchesca is pleased that she may finally get an answer to her life-long issues and is happy that doctors are listening to her at last.

Franchesca hopes that, by sharing her story, she can help others who find themselves in similar situations, knowing all too well that bloating and constipation is often regarded as a taboo topic.

She added: “I finally feel like I’m on the right path to finding out the cause of my constipation and feeling confident in my appearance again.

“I’m determined to raise awareness for gut issues and break the stigma for those suffering from the physical and mental strain these conditions put on us.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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