If your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has you in panic mode when you start thinking about having kids, calm down – there is no need to fret. IBD itself doesn’t affect your fertility. Broadly speaking, people with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis tend to conceive as easily as the general population. However, your IBD can present a few additional obstacles to a stress-free conception and pregnancy. But with a little bit of planning and with your clinical team and Mother Nature on your side, the pitter-patter sound of little feet will one day be filling your home.
Making another human being is a big deal. If you’re a woman hoping to conceive you’ll want to make sure you’re as up to the challenge as you can be. Conceiving in a state of good health can make your pregnancy easier and take less of a toll on your body – and what’s good for mum tends to be good for baby.
IBD can wreak havoc with your immune system, so you may need to work hard to achieve a healthy baseline. For instance, maintaining a healthy weight can be tough if you suffer from auto-immune issues. Similarly, regular exercise can be challenging for people with Crohn’s or colitis, especially during or just after symptom flare ups.
Adequate nutrition is vital in the lead up to conception and during pregnancy to ensure a healthy mum and baby. As many IBD sufferers may have issues with nutrient malabsorption, they may need to take supplements or follow a strict diet to get the vitamins and minerals they need. It’s best to consult with your doctor about how you can maintain a consistently favourable level of health to improve your fertility.
While having IBD doesn’t directly affect fertility, some IBD medications (including over the counter options used to manage symptoms) can occasionally have an impact on fertility in both men and women.
Doctors may advise men or women to change medications in the lead up to conception and for women they may suggest alternative treatment and management plans during pregnancy. Having this discussion now can save stress later on, and depending on the medication you are taking, it may be advisable to change a few months in advance of trying for a baby.
If you’re a woman with IBD and are considering surgery options, you should raise any concerns you have about fertility and pregnancy with your IBD doctor as well as your gynaecologist and the surgeon. Some surgical procedures (such as certain kinds of J-pouches) may impact your fertility or the kind of delivery that is advisable if you do become pregnant. For instance, if you have a lot of scar tissue, a C-section may be a safer option than a vaginal delivery. Similarly, if you are prone to fistulae or perineal inflammation, a caesarean birth may pose less health risks for you.
Surgical side effects such as reduced fertility (in men and women) are uncommon, but it is worth discussing everything with your doctor in advance so you can be prepared and consider your options.
Speak to the professionals
Planning ahead and keeping the lines of dialogue open with your doctors not only increases your chances of having an easier time when it comes to conception and pregnancy, but these discussions now may also relieve any IBD/fertility-related anxiety you may experience. And we all know that stress and anxiety can be a real passion killer when you’re trying to…well… try for a baby.
19/09/2014 IRIS number AU-REM0326