Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that can cause severe digestive distress and other complications. You can have a healthy pregnancy living with Crohn’s, but there are important concerns to discuss with your healthcare team.

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If you have Crohn’s disease and you want to become pregnant or recently found out you are pregnant, you may be concerned about how this common digestive disorder may affect your health and the health of your baby.

While Crohn’s disease is unlikely to interfere with having a healthy pregnancy, there are some important considerations you will want to understand and some precautions you may need to take to help ensure a healthy outcome.

Learn more about Crohn’s disease.

When your Crohn’s disease is in remission, the condition is unlikely to have much, if any, effect on your pregnancy. The main concerns are related to active Crohn’s. A flare-up can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Likewise, active disease can complicate your pregnancy.

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada suggests that active Crohn’s can interfere with a healthy pregnancy because it may lead to you not eating enough or not getting sufficient nutrition for you and your baby.

Crohn’s also raises the risk of developing blood clots, particularly in the legs (deep vein thrombosis), and experiencing gestational diabetes. The risk is greatest during a flare-up.

The main symptoms of Crohn’s disease during pregnancy are the same as those at any other time of life:

  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss

Other possible symptoms can include:

Active Crohn’s disease raises the risk of low birth weight or premature birth. However, you can also have a full-term pregnancy with no complications.

There is no way to predict whether Crohn’s or various other health factors will affect the baby during pregnancy. For this reason, it’s important to follow your healthcare team’s advice, attend all medical appointments, and follow through on all lab work and screenings.

Most Crohn’s medications can be continued during pregnancy. However, in some instances, your healthcare team may need to adapt dosages to help reduce the possibility that your baby will experience any medication effects.

There are two medications — methotrexate and tofacitinib — you may need to avoid during pregnancy. Methotrexate may delay the baby’s growth during pregnancy.

Ideally, if you’re planning to become pregnant and you’re taking these medications, your doctor will start weening you off them 2–3 months before your pregnancy is confirmed.

You may also need to stop taking corticosteroids during pregnancy, though this is a decision you’ll make with your healthcare team.

If possible, you may need to avoid antibiotics throughout your pregnancy. Your healthcare team will advise you regarding whether this is a necessary step.

Most individuals with Crohn’s disease have healthy pregnancies and healthy newborns, according to Crohn’s & Colitis UK. Taking any necessary steps your healthcare team advises to keep your disease in remission during pregnancy will give you and your baby the best chance for a healthy outcome.

Is Crohn’s considered high risk pregnancy?

Even though most people with Crohn’s can have healthy pregnancies and infants, there is a slightly elevated risk for complications during pregnancy and delivery. For this reason, having Crohn’s can lead to a high risk pregnancy, which requires special prenatal care and attention.

Can Crohn’s disease affect babies?

Having active disease during pregnancy can raise the risk of premature birth or low birth weight, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. The likelihood of having a miscarriage or your newborn having birth defects related to Crohn’s is low, especially if you’re following your healthcare team’s medical recommendations.

Can you take Crohn’s medication while pregnant?

Most commonly prescribed medications are considered safe during pregnancy. However, your healthcare team may make dosage adjustments to help reduce any risks and uncomfortable side effects for you. Having your OB/GYN coordinate with your gastroenterologist before pregnancy if possible — and certainly during pregnancy — will help limit the chances of complications, including medication-related concerns.

What is the life expectancy of someone with Crohn’s disease?

A 2020 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that life expectancy for some individuals with Crohn’s may be a few years shorter than it is for someone without the disease. However, getting proper medical care, following a recommended eating plan, and focusing on other health-promoting lifestyle choices can support healthy longevity while living with Crohn’s.

Having any chronic medical issue or condition when pregnant — or even when considering pregnancy — can be worrisome. Having Crohn’s disease can be painful and affect your quality of life. Collectively, these situations can be even more challenging.

However, working closely with your healthcare team before and during your pregnancy and following their medical recommendations can lead to you having an excellent chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy newborn.