Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect reproductive health in some people, for a range of distinct reasons.1,2
However, some people with inflammatory bowel disease choose not to have children because of worries about:1,2
Generally, IBD patients are likely to be able to become pregnant. However, some factors can impact your fertility. For instance, in Crohn’s disease (CD), having a flare-up does slightly reduce your fertility.4
Additionally, some types of surgery can affect fertility in women due to increased risk of adhesions (bands of scar-like tissue that cause internal organs to stick together).5 Rarely, in men, pelvic surgery can cause problems with ejaculation and reduce fertility in this way.5
If you are thinking about starting a family, tell your healthcare team so you can discuss your condition, treatments, and any questions or concerns.
Pregnancy is best planned for a period when disease is under control or in remission, for the best chance of conception and a healthy baby and also to ensure you are as healthy as possible and feeling well for this important time in your life.2,4,5
If you become pregnant while in remission with Crohn’s, you have the same risk of relapse as someone who is not in remission; pregnancy doesn’t increase this chance.4
It is important to get specific advice about your situation from your IBD team before starting or stopping any medicines or treatments. However, some general information is provided below.
For more information about using these and other medicines prior to or during pregnancy you can visit the Crohn's and Colitis UK (CCUK) information on specific treatments – find it here.
It is normal to worry about how your IBD will affect your pregnancy.
Our short video provides you with some advice on planning for a family, managing pregnancy and caring for children, while living with IBD or supporting someone with IBD.
Most people who have IBD have normal pregnancies and healthy babies.2
Your IBD team will work together with your antenatal team to look after you in pregnancy – you can ask your consultant or nurse to give your antenatal team details about your disease and care. They can help you decide on what type of birth is right for you, and give you advice about nutrition, effects on your stoma if you have one, and any change to your medication which may be necessary.4
You can learn more about stomas and how they can affect you here.
The causes of IBD are numerous and dependent on complex interactions between both genetic and environmental factors.7 IBD is thought to have a strong genetic component, since family history of IBD is the greatest risk factor for disease at all ages.8 Overall however, the heritability of IBD is still unknown and having a relative with IBD is an important risk factor for developing the condition.9
How likely parents with IBD are to have a child who develops the condition seems to vary and is also higher in some groups of people than others. Estimates tend to vary but studies have shown that if one parent has ulcerative colitis, the risk of the child developing Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis is approximately 2%. If both parents have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis the risk rises to above 30%.4,10
Despite genetic predisposition, other additional factors are needed to trigger the development of IBD.10 Genetics are just one risk factor, and most women can expect to have a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby.10
CD = Crohn’s disease; IBD = inflammatory bowel disease.
*IBDrelief patient survey data from 167 respondents with IBD in the UK. Of respondents aged 18-34, 67% felt their condition would make it harder to have children.3