It’s common to feel concerned about becoming pregnant when you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, you can have a safe pregnancy despite your condition. The key is to become pregnant while your disease is in remission.

IBD consists of a group of conditions that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions cause inflammation in the intestines at any place along the digestive tract. It causes painful stomach cramping and diarrhea among other symptoms. The disease usually flares up for a time and then goes into remission.

Risks During Pregnancy

Most women who get pregnant while their ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s is in remission, stay in remission throughout pregnancy. Even if you’re not having symptoms, it’s important to stay in close contact with your gastroenterologist as well as your obstetrician.

When planning pregnancy, talk to your gastroenterologist first if possible. If you get pregnant during a flare-up, there is a risk of complications. These include:

IBD medications during and prior to pregnancy

Many medications for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are safe during pregnancy. Your doctor will work with you to alter any medications that pose risks to you or your baby, while still keeping your symptoms under control.

Methotrexate is not safe during pregnancy. It’s best that you stop taking methotrexate before trying to conceive. This drug can also pose risks if the baby’s father is taking methotrexate. For the safest pregnancy, he should talk to his doctor about alternative medications while you are attempting to get pregnant.

After Pregnancy

Moms with IBD may feel conflicted about whether to breastfeed after the baby is born. It is possible to breastfeed, even when you are on medications to manage your symptoms.

Aminosalicylates are considered safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Many antibiotics are also safe, but some can pose serious risks, so be sure to let your doctor know if you want to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding offers great benefits to your baby, but it will require that you stay on top of your symptoms and your medications. Talk with your doctor about your decision so that you can find the combination with the least risks.

You may also be worried about passing along IBD to your child. When only one parent has IBD, there’s very little increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s over someone whose parent doesn’t have either disease. The risk is a bit higher if both parents have some form of IBD.

Overall, you can feel comfortable having a safe pregnancy despite your IBD, especially when in remission.