What It Is
A collective term for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which cause severe inflammation in the intestines.
Who Gets It
About half of the 1 million Americans affected by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are women. IBD can occur at any age but often develops in the 20s or 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 IBD.
How It Affects Fertility (And Pregnancy)
When IBD is not under control, a woman may face problems getting pregnant and risk early miscarriage. But a woman whose IBD 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 IBD, certain drugs can cause low sperm counts.
Medication is the first line of treatment for IBD, with surgery reserved for the most severe cases. Many different drugs are used to treat the disease, which means that if you are hoping to conceive your doctor should have a number of safe options for keeping IBD under control.
If you have IBD, 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 IBD have nearly a 50 percent chance of infertility afterward.
If your partner has IBD 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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