Because ulcerative colitis (UC) usually starts between the ages of 20 and 30, it hits during a woman’s prime childbearing years.
Some women with ulcerative colitis may feel so exhausted and uncomfortable, they have no desire to try to get pregnant. Others with IBD put off starting a family because they're worried that the disease will get worse during pregnancy or that they’ll pass on ulcerative colitis to their baby.
Having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) shouldn't prevent you from starting a family. Despite the challenges, women with UC can have healthy pregnancies and deliveries. But it’s important to know these facts about conceiving and giving birth to a healthy baby if you have this condition.
Will Ulcerative Colitis Make It Harder for Me to Get Pregnant?
The chance of a woman with ulcerative colitis getting pregnant is no different than that of other women her age.
Although UC doesn't directly affect fertility, women who have had a colectomy -- surgery to remove all or part of the large intestine -- may have a harder time getting pregnant. When the entire large intestine is removed, surgeons create an internal pouch to hold waste. Because this surgery can produce scar tissue in the pelvic area, it can increase the risk of infertility.
You may be able to avoid having surgery by controlling the disease with medication.
If you do need to have a colectomy and know you want to have children, another option is to have a partial colectomy. Instead of making an internal pouch, the surgeon creates an opening and the woman wears the pouch on the outside of her body. This type of surgery would not affect your chances of getting pregnant. After you have children, you can get a colectomy with the internal pouch.
How Can I Raise My Chances of a Healthy Pregnancy With Ulcerative Colitis?
The most important thing you can do is to get active ulcerative colitis under control and into remission before trying to get pregnant.
If you get pregnant while the disease is still active, there's a good chance symptoms will continue or get worse during pregnancy.
Active flare-ups of UC can leave you underweight and without the nutrients you need to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. Being underweight may significantly increase the risk of having a miscarriage in the first trimester of pregnancy. It also increases the chances that you’ll deliver a baby who is premature or underweight.
As soon as you start thinking about getting pregnant, make an appointment to see your gastrointestinal doctor or primary care physician, as well as your ob-gyn. Talk with them about how to make sure you're getting the care you need to have a healthy pregnancy.
You might also want to get the help of a dietitian to make sure you're eating a well-balanced diet.