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Inflammatory Bowel Disease During Pregnancy - Topic Overview

Most women who have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease) can have a normal pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. IBD does not affect the pregnancy itself. In most cases, if a woman who has inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not having symptoms (is in remission) when she becomes pregnant, she will stay in remission during pregnancy. Sometimes the disease becomes more active during the pregnancy. If the disease is active when a woman becomes pregnant, it is likely to stay active during the pregnancy. Doctors recommend that women wait until their disease is in remission before trying to get pregnant.

The type of IBD and how bad it is determines the health of the baby and the risk of premature delivery. The treatments used during pregnancy also play a role. Women with severe disease are more likely to have a premature delivery and a baby with a low birth weight.

X-ray tests, imaging of the lower portion of the large intestine (flexible sigmoidoscopy), and imaging of the entire large intestine (colonoscopy) are usually avoided during pregnancy to prevent harming the fetus.

In some cases, active inflammatory bowel disease can be worse for the fetus than the medicines used to control symptoms. Ask your doctor which medicines are safe for you to take during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Your doctor will look at your symptoms and your pregnancy and will be able to tell you about the risks of medicine for you. In general:

  • Aminosalicylates are usually safe to use during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • The use of corticosteroids will be decided on a case-by-case basis. They can be considered for women with moderate to severe inflammatory bowel disease when the risk of active disease is more harmful to the baby than the risk of taking the medicine during pregnancy.
  • The use of antibiotics such as metronidazole will be decided on a case-by-case basis by your doctor. Ciprofloxacin should not be used.
  • The use of immunomodulators azathioprine and mercaptopurine will be decided on a case-by-case basis. They can be considered for women with moderate to severe inflammatory bowel disease when the risk of active disease is more harmful to the baby than the risk of taking the medicine during pregnancy.
  • The use of cyclosporine will be decided on a case-by-case basis. It may be considered for women with moderate to severe inflammatory bowel disease when the risk of active disease is more harmful to the baby than the risk of taking the medicine during pregnancy.
  • The use of biologics (such as infliximab) during pregnancy is still being studied. They should only be used when other medicines have not worked and when the health of the mother or the fetus (or both) is at risk.
  • Methotrexate, thalidomide, and mycophenolate mofetil should not be taken while you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Nutrition given into a vein (total parenteral nutrition, TPN) may be used during pregnancy if needed.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: October 08, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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