You can have a healthy pregnancy when you have inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis (UC).
However, you’ll need to keep a few important things in mind so that you and your baby are well-nourished during your pregnancy.
It’s important to work with your doctor and a dietician throughout your pregnancy. They’ll be able to help you find the best and safest way to manage your symptoms and flare-ups.
Here’s more information about UC and pregnancy.
In an ideal world, you would become pregnant during a period of disease inactivity or remission. Your body would also remain flare-free for the duration of your pregnancy.
Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works.
Most women with UC carry their babies to term without complication.
However, women with the disease are more likely than women of the same age without the disease to experience a miscarriage, premature delivery, and labor and delivery complications.
UC flare-ups are most likely to occur during the first trimester or immediately following delivery. For that reason, your obstetrician may classify yours as a high-risk pregnancy.
The large intestine of a person with UC may not be able to absorb nutrients, vitamins, and minerals as easily as it would if UC wasn’t present. That’s why proper nutrition is extremely important if you’re pregnant and have UC.
You’ll receive prenatal vitamins that include nutrients like folic acid. This is especially important for women with UC, because some UC treatments lower your folic acid levels.
Ask your gastroenterologist or obstetrician about making an appointment with a dietitian. During this important time in your life, you may want expert help with creating a diet that works for your condition.
Your doctor can help ensure that you’ll have a proper, balanced meal plan, and you can rest easy knowing that you’re giving your body — and your baby-to-be’s — all the needed nutrition.
It’s not necessary to stop all your treatments if you find out you’re pregnant. In many cases, the medications are perfectly safe for both you and your baby. Stopping treatment may in fact make your condition worse.
It’s important to note that you should consult your doctor before stopping any treatments, including medication.
If you experience a flare while you’re pregnant, or are experiencing a flare when you find out that you’re pregnant, your doctor may need to re-evaluate your treatment plan.
Many medications used for treating the signs and symptoms of UC are safe for pregnant women.
These include the following:
Aminosalicylates and 5-ASA compounds: Both appear to be safe for developing babies, and when taking a 5-ASA compound, you’re able to breastfeed. However, it’s recommended that you supplement with 2 mg of folic acid daily because these medications lower your body’s folic acid levels.
Corticosteroids: These medications are generally considered low-risk treatments during pregnancy and when nursing. However, corticosteroids should not be taken longer than needed, and if possible, they should not be taken at the beginning of pregnancy.
Immunomodulators and immunosuppressants: Most medications in both classes are considered low risk during pregnancy.
If you’re taking methotrexate to treat your bowel symptoms, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant. Methotrexate is potentially toxic to developing babies and to breastfed newborns.
Experts don’t know what causes UC, and they haven’t confirmed that there’s a genetic cause. However, people seem more likely to develop it if they have a relative with the condition.
In other words, the child of a person with UC may develop symptoms later, although these do not usually appear until between the ages of 15 and 20 years.
No two people experience UC in the same way.
Some women with the condition have normal, healthy pregnancies. Others have a more difficult time.
If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s important to talk to and work with your gastroenterologist and obstetrician.
They can make sure you have the best chances of conceiving and carrying to term without complications or setbacks.