Women & IBD Resources


Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are just as likely to be affected women as men. On average, people are more frequently diagnosed with IBD between the ages of 15 and 25, although the diseases can occur at any age. If you are a woman with IBD, it is important to understand how the events in a woman's life—menses, pregnancy, and menopause—can affect the course of your disease, and how your disease, in turn, can affect these milestones. For more information please review the information provided below and view our archived program IBD & She: Focusing on Living While Managing IBD.

 Books

The following helpful books can be found in CCFA's bookstore.

"Eat Well Feel Well"- Kendall Conrad


"IBD Self Management"- Sunanda Kane, MD


"The First Year: Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis"- Jill Sklar


"100 Questions and Answers About Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis:- Andrew S. Warner, MD, Amy E. Barto, MD


"Life Lines: Stories from Women with Hope"- Ruth Glaze

 Clinical Trials

There are currently a handful of clinical trials testing various aspects of the impact of IBD on women and pregnancy in particular.  To find clinical trials in your area search CCFA's Clinical Trials database and use the search term "pregnancy". 

 Factsheets

 Frequently Asked Questions

My disease always seems to be worse the week before or the week of my period. Is this common?

Yes, this pattern is common for many diseases, actually. It is important to appreciate the fluctuation in symptoms that may be associated with menses, so that you are not over-treating your disease when symptoms may wax and wane based on your cycle.

Can women with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis conceive as easily as other women?

Generally, yes. Studies have shown that women with ulcerative colitis have the same rate of fertility as women without IBD. Studies of the fertility rates of women with Crohn's disease are conflicting. One large study showed no difference in fertility rates, but older studies and a more recent one show a slightly decreased rate of conception in women. This is true for active Crohn's disease, not inactive disease, where the rate looks to be the same as in the normal population. However surgery in the pelvis, such as a colectomy with J pouch will reduce fertility.

If the male partner is taking sulfasalazine, temporary male infertility may occur because this drug decreases sperm production, a reversible side effect. Before attempting conception, the male partner should stop the sulfasalazine and/or change to another 5-ASA compound, which has not been shown to interfere with sperm production.

What are the chances that the child of a mother with IBD will develop one of these diseases?

It is possible but certainly not inevitable that a child of a parent with IBD will have it, too. If one parent has Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, the chance of a child developing the condition is approximately 2-9%. If both parents have IBD, the child's chances may be as high as 36%.

Does having IBD have an effect on Menopause?

No. If the disease is inactive and periods are regular, menopause occurs naturally. Surgical menopause has been noted to have a positive effect on symptoms that otherwise occur with menses.

For more frequently asked questions please click here.

 Journal Articles

 Medication Safety in Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

FDA Pregnancy Category
The FDA has created the following classification chart to categorize medications and their risk in connection with pregnancy. 

Category

Description

A

Controlled studies show no risk

B

No evidence of risk in humans

C

  • Animal reproduction studies show adverse effects
  • No adequate studies in humans
  • Benefits in pregnant women may be acceptable despite potential risk

D

Positive evidence of risk

X

Contraindicated in pregnancy

Most medications currently approved to treat IBD are safe for use during pregnancy and breast feeding with a handful of exceptions. 

Medications to AVOID during pregnancy:

  • Diphenoxylate (antidiarrheal)
  • Loperamide (antidiarrheal)
  • Bisphosphonates
  • Methotrexate
  • Thalidomide

For a specific chart listing all IBD medications and their implication with pregnancy and breastfeeding please view the chart in our Understanding IBD Medications (pg. 18-19) brochure. 

Research has shown an increase in flares postpartum, but it has shown these flares are due to new mothers stopping their medications to breastfeed.  There is no connection directly between the disease and breastfeeding.  It is imperative that new mothers continue on their treatment plans while breastfeeding.

For information about complementary & alternative therapies click here, and visit the following organizations.

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians 
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

It's also important to maintain your general health.  For more information on what you should be current on click here.

For specific information on what to expect with pregnancy and IBD click here.

 Pain Management

 Webcast

Participate in the online archive of the teleconference/ webcast "IBD & She: Focusing on Living While Managing IBD" presented by two women physician experts and researchers in IBD to learn the following:

  • What are the important gender issues in IBD?
  • How does IBD affect intimacy and sexuality?
  • What is the impact of IBD medication on fertility and pregnancy?

CCFA offers important resources for those with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis: information, guidance, support, and the latest clinical and scientific information in the field. You can join your local chapter, connect with others living with these diseases, and get involved. Most of all, know that we're here for you whenever you need us. You can reach us at our Information Resource Center at 888.MY.GUT.PAIN (888-694-8872) or info@ccfa.org.

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America provides information for educational purposes only. We encourage you to review this educational material with your health care professional. The Foundation does not provide medical or other health care opinions or services. The inclusion of another organization's resources or referral to another organization does not represent an endorsement of a particular individual, group, company or product.

updated: 7/29/2010



For further information, call the Irwin M. and Suzanne R. Rosenthal IBD Resource Center (IBD Help Center): 888.MY.GUT.PAIN (888.694.8872).

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America provides information for educational purposes only. We encourage you to review this educational material with your health care professional. The Foundation does not provide medical or other health care opinions or services. The inclusion of another organization’s resources or referral to another organization does not represent an endorsement of a particular individual, group, company or product.

About this resource

By: CCFA
Published: July 1, 2010