LAS VEGAS – Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can disrupt both fertility and pregnancy, especially if it’s not fully controlled, and there’s a risk that the condition can be passed onto an unborn child. Still a new study suggests many patients with IBD don’t receive appropriate reproductive counseling.
Nearly two-thirds of 100 patients surveyed at a single center reported that no physician had talked to them about reproductive topics, and some said they’d considered not having children because of the condition. “Really fundamental subjects have not made their way into the interactions between patients and their care teams,” coauthor and gastroenterologist Sarah Streett, MD, AGAF, of Stanford (Calif.) University, said in an interview before the study was presented at the Crohn’s & Colitis Congress - a partnership of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and the American Gastroenterological Association.
IBD can lower fertility in both sexes and boost complications in pregnancy. “The good news is that almost all the medications used for IBD appear safe,” Dr. Streett said. “In fact, the safety risks for the baby and the pregnancy revolve around not having IBD under good control.”
Unfortunately, she said, misinformation is common. “Patients who become pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, and are worried about potential harm to the baby, will stop the medications due to incorrect information. Or they’ll be told by their health care team to stop their medications.”
Dr. Streett and study lead author Aarti Rao, MD, a gastroenterology fellow at Stanford, launched their study of IBD clinic patients to gain more understanding about patient knowledge. “We know from research already published that those with IBD have a lot of concerns about starting families and don’t have a lot of information to base their decision making on,” Dr. Streett said. “We wanted to evaluate that in our population and see how much people knew and what the need was.”
In 2018 and 2019, Dr. Streett and Dr. Rao gave an anonymous, validated 17-question survey to patients aged 18-45 with IBD. One hundred patients responded (median age = 30, 54% female, 59% white, 66% with incomes over $100,000, 52% with ulcerative colitis, 21% with prior IBD surgery, 71% with prior IBD hospitalization).