What It Is
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease in which sores and inflammation develop along the lining of the large intestine.
Who Gets It
About half of the 1 million Americans affected by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are women. Colitis can occur at any age but often develops in the 30s. People of Jewish descent and with a family history of the disease are at highest risk.
Severe abdominal pain, severe chronic diarrhea, and possible rectal bleeding.
How It's Diagnosed/Detected
Your doctor may use one or more of a variety of tests, including blood samples, colonoscopy, barium enema, and CT scans to confirm a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.
How It Affects Fertility (And Pregnancy)
When ulcerative colitis is not under control, women may face problems getting pregnant and risk early miscarriage. But a woman whose disease is under control with drugs should be able to conceive and have a normal pregnancy. Surgery to treat the disease is another matter; it may dramatically increase the risk of infertility afterward (because of pelvic adhesions and scarring). In men with colitis, certain drugs can cause low sperm counts.
Medication is the first line of treatment. Many different drugs are available to treat the disease, which means that if you are hoping to conceive your doctor should have a number of safe options for keeping it under control. Severe ulcerative colitis is sometimes treated with surgery, in which the lower large intestine is removed and replaced with a small, artificial pouch constructed from the small intestine. This, like any significant surgery in the pelvic area, increases the risk of infertility, probably because of adhesions or the potential for fallopian tube scarring or blockage.
If you have ulcerative colitis, you can get pregnant, even if your disease is severe. The goal is to get as healthy as possible before trying to conceive. Talk to your gastroenterologist and ob/gyn about the best time to try to get pregnant, because you will likely have to go off your medications or change them. Work with your doctor to exhaust all medical options for treating your disease before considering surgery. Studies show that women who undergo surgery for ulcerative colitis have nearly a 50 percent chance of infertility afterward.
If your partner has ulcerative colitis and is taking Azulfidine (sulfasalazine), he should have a semen analysis. If the test shows that his sperm counts and motility are low, he should talk to his physician to see if there is another drug he can take.
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