IBD and pregnancy

Preparing to welcome a baby into your life brings its own set of challenges in terms of health and lifestyle changes. Every woman is different, and so is every pregnancy. From morning sickness and ‘baby brain’, to feeling radiant with that special ‘glow’, you can be assured of a unique, but ultimately rewarding experience.

When you have a life-long illness such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), pregnancy may seem more tumultuous than expected. Effective management of your condition becomes even more important to ensure the health of both mother and child, and ultimately, ensure a smooth pregnancy.

IBD and fertility

If you’re planning to start or add to your family, you should seek advice from your doctor as early as you can – pre-conception, if possible. That way, you can take every step to get healthy prior to commencing the emotional and physical changes that are part of the journey of pregnancy.

Having your IBD under control prior to falling pregnant would be the ideal situation. During times of remission, you will be in a better state to begin your journey to parenthood, letting you spend more time cooing over tiny booties and less time trying to cope with IBD-related pain and discomfort.

Gastrointestinal (GI) surgery for IBD and certain medications may affect your ability to conceive – check with your doctor if you’re concerned about this. If you’ve recently had surgery, you’ll need to rest and recuperate before trying for a baby. It is important that your body recovers fully before trying to cope with the demands of a growing bump.

During pregnancy

If your IBD symptoms are active when you fall pregnant, chances are mood swings and indigestion will just make you feel worse. Pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea are bad enough without your hormones going haywire and a few months of morning sickness. Keep in mind that stress is a big no-no for IBD sufferers – it often triggers or worsens symptoms. When you’re pregnant, it is even more vital to keep as cool as a cucumber. Stress can affect both mother and baby, so try to slow down a bit and take it easy. Relaxation and downtime aren’t luxuries, they are vital for the health of you and your baby.

It is always best to be prepared and try to conceive while you're in good health. It is very important to maintain remission of your condition, before and during pregnancy, by adhering to your medications as discussed and prescribed by your doctor for the treatment of IBD in pregnancy. Many women steer clear of medication during pregnancy, fearing they may harm their child. If you have IBD, you should always
check with your doctor before making any changes to your treatment program. Sometimes managing your IBD symptoms with medication is better for your baby than enduring the additional stress and pain caused by a flare up.

Always, always feel free to talk to your doctor! They are there to help and deal with cases like yours on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed about bringing up any concerns. Discussing all your options with your obstetrician and your regular physician or IBD specialist early in your pregnancy can help them develop a treatment plan to manage your IBD that is suitable for you, your baby and your lifestyle.