Inflammatory bowel disease: management issues during pregnancy

Simone Ferrero, Nicola Ragni
Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics 2004, 270 (2): 79-85

INTRODUCTION: Inflammatory bowel disease often affects women during their reproductive years, causing management concerns for obstetricians caring for these patients during pregnancy.

TREATMENT: Apart from methotrexate, most drugs used regularly to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can safely be used by pregnant women. No causal relationship has been established between exposure to sulfasalazine or other 5-aminosalicylic acid drugs and the development of congenital malformations and these drugs may be used with relative safety during pregnancy and lactation. Current evidence indicates that maternal use of azathioprine and mercaptopurine is not associated with an increased risk of congenital malformations, though impaired foetal immunity, intrauterine growth retardation and prematurity are occasionally observed. Cyclosporin is not teratogenic, but may be associated with growth retardation and prematurity.

CONCLUSIONS: Pregnancy should be avoided in women treated with methotrexate because of its known abortifacient effects and risk of causing typical malformations. There is no actual evidence of adverse effect in pregnant women receiving Infliximab but the amount of clinical information is small. The treatment with metronidazole or ciprofloxacin for short durations appear to be safe, but there is no data about the effects of increased length of treatment as required in Crohn's disease remains unknown. Control of disease activity before conception and during pregnancy is critical to optimise both maternal and foetal health. A multidisciplined approach involving both obstetrician and gastroenterologist and education about pregnancy are essential components of the treatment of any young women with IBD.

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