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Abstract

Background

Inflammatory bowel disease affects patients who are in their reproductive years. There are many questions regarding the management of IBD patients who are considering or who are already pregnant. These include the effect of the disease and the medications on fertility and on the pregnancy outcome.

Aim

To create an evidence-based decision-making algorithm to help guide physicians through the management of pregnancy in the IBD patient.

Methods

A literature review using phrases that include: ‘inflammatory bowel disease’, ‘Crohn's disease’, ‘ulcerative colitis’, ‘pregnancy’, ‘fertility’, ‘breast feeding’, ‘delivery’, ‘surgery’, ‘immunomodulators’, ‘azathioprine’, ‘mercaptopurine’, ‘biologics’, ‘infliximab’, ‘adalimumab’, ‘certolizumab’.

Conclusions

The four decision-making nodes in the algorithm for the management of pregnancy in the IBD patient, and the key points for each one are as follows: (i) preconception counselling – pregnancy outcome is better if patients remain in remission during pregnancy, (ii) contemplating pregnancy or is already pregnant – drugs used to treat IBD appear to be safe during pregnancy, with the exception of methotrexate and thalidomide, (iii) delivery and (iv) breast feeding – drugs used to treat IBD appear to be safe during lactation, except for ciclosporin. Another key point is that biological agents may be continued up to 30 weeks gestation. The management of pregnancy in the IBD patient should be multi-disciplinary involving the patient and her partner, the family physician, the gastroenterologist and the obstetrician.