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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Health Center

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Pregnancy and IBD Treatment Safe

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatments Don't Adversely Affect Pregnancy Outcome
WebMD Health News

Nov. 3, 2004 (Orlando, Fla.) -- New research shows that women with inflammatory bowel disease should continue to take medications that prevent flare ups of the disease during pregnancy.

About 1 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease -- usually ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. The conditions can be controlled with medications.

Flavio M. Habal, MD, PhD an associate professor in the division of gastroenterology, at the University of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada, tells WebMD that "the pregnancy outcome will be better -- for the woman and for the baby -- if she continues taking her medications. This is an important issue because many times obstetricians will advise women to stop all medications during pregnancy."

Habal says that his study found "no birth defects associated with IBD medication use."

Avoiding IBD Relapse

Habal and his colleagues followed 138 women with inflammatory bowel disease for 20 years to collect the data. Sixty of the women had ulcerative colitis and 76 had Crohn's disease. "During that time there were 174 births, so some of these women had multiple pregnancies."

He says that women who stopped their medications during pregnancy were "more likely to have preterm delivery and small birth weight babies."

The main concern with inflammatory bowel disease, says Habal, is to avoid a relapse, especially during pregnancy when a relapse is risky for both the woman and the fetus. He says that many women feel confident about stopping medications during pregnancy because "there is a belief that pregnancy by itself tends to reduce the risk of IBD relapse. Typically, women will say they feel great so they don't need the medication."

Harris Clearfield, MD, a professor at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, tells WebMD that "pregnancy is a big issue with IBD since many of our patients become ill during the childbearing years. What usually happens is that the obstetrician will immediately advise the woman to stop all medications to protect the baby."

Clearfield, who was not involved in the study, says "now that we have some evidence from this study we can share this information with obstetricians, because the real risk here is relapse. Nobody wants that to happen during pregnancy."

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