Inflammatory bowel disease increases risk of pregnancy complications, study finds

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Experts say it’s important for pregnant women to be aware of the risks

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia explored how a preexisting digestive issue may affect pregnant women and their babies. According to their findings, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may increase the risk of complications and health risks for pregnant women and their newborns. 

“IBD is an incurable disease, and its relapsing and remitting nature is stressful for the estimated 3 million U.S. men and women diagnosed,” said researcher Dr. Yezaz Ghouri. “

Because this disease tends to affect women during their peak fertility period, we wanted to know the impact of IBD on maternal and fetal outcomes. To our knowledge, this study is the most comprehensive of its kind, using data from multiple institutions in 48 states.” 

Pregnancy risks

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 8 million pregnancies between 2016 and 2018. They looked closely at those who had received IBD diagnoses and their pregnancy and delivery outcomes. The researchers also accounted for several health and lifestyle factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, malnutrition, age, race, and obesity, among several others. 

The study showed that there were several health risks present among pregnant women with IBD. Compared to women without the digestive condition, pregnant women with IBD were more likely to spend extra time in the hospital after they gave birth, which also led to larger medical bills. The researchers found that women with IBD were likely to spend nearly $3,000 more on hospital bills than women who didn’t have IBD. 

From a health standpoint, IBD posed a risk to both women and their babies. Women with the condition were more likely to have a stillbirth, deliver early, and give birth to babies with low birth weight. Additionally, they had a higher risk of high blood pressure problems, gestational diabetes, and postpartum hemorrhage. 

The researchers hope these findings highlight the benefits of women working with their doctors to get a handle on IBD before getting pregnant, as it is likely to lead to better pregnancy outcomes for both them and their babies. 

“Based on our findings, we suggest that women who have moderate to severe IBD should get pre-conceptional counseling and be treated aggressively to achieve remission prior to getting pregnant,” Dr. Ghouri said. “Our study results illustrate the importance that IBD be optimally controlled prior to conception.” 

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