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Considerations Before Becoming a Parent with IBD

I am currently in the midst of my second pregnancy with Crohn’s disease. I was originally diagnosed when I was 13, so I always knew if I chose to be a parent that I would be doing so with IBD. Being a parent is something that I have always wanted, but as someone living with a chronic illness, I felt I had a few extra things to take into consideration before embarking on the journey of parenthood.

These are five questions I asked myself before my husband and I decided to start a family.

Can I even get pregnant?

The good news is that IBD does not affect your fertility! This goes for both for women and for men. This diagnosis does not decrease your ability to conceive a child. However, there are other factors that may play a role, including certain medications and previous surgeries. I personally have a permanent ileostomy and I knew that those previous surgeries could impact my ability to conceive a child. We do, however, live in a world with excellent options for outside interventions, if necessary.

How will pregnancy affect my treatment and how will the medication I am on impact my pregnancy and my child?

It is very encouraging to see that studies have shown that most IBD medications are safe to take during pregnancy and do not negatively impact the baby. However, there are specific medications that should not be taken during pregnancy, so be sure to speak with your doctor if you are considering becoming pregnant. In many cases, women are able to continue with their current treatment plan throughout pregnancy, or at least close to their due date. Again, this is something to discuss with your doctor, but much of the time treatment does not have to change.

Am I healthy enough to handle pregnancy and eventually a child?

The honest truth is that pregnancy is difficult on a woman’s body. Your body now has to not only take care of you, but another growing human. It is not an easy task for the healthiest women out there, so it’s especially important for anyone with a chronic illness to honestly assess whether or not they believe their body can handle a pregnancy. And beyond this, once the pregnancy is over, there is a baby that depends on you, so being in a position to care for a child is important. This also leads into the next question…

Do I have a strong support system?

Since there is no cure for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the possibility of disease recurrence or intensification is always there. Having a support system of family and friends can make a big difference. Knowing that if your health took a turn for the worst, you have people around you who can help with care for your child is a great reassurance.

Could I pass IBD on to my child?

This is a big question that many people with IBD ask. And while family history is a predictor for developing IBD, it is still only a small possibility. For those with ulcerative colitis, there is a 1.6% chance of passing along IBD, while those with Crohn’s disease have a 5.2% chance. So basically, there is a nearly 95% chance that your child will not have IBD. The thing to also consider is that no one ever knows what challenges our children might face. My parents had no clue they would have a child with Crohn’s disease.

I completely understand the concerns that are present here and it’s something I wrestled with, as well, but this is something we cannot currently predict and I hope it’s not something that holds you back from becoming a parent if that’s something you truly desire. Ultimately, this is a decision that should be made between you and potentially your partner, with the guidance of your doctor.

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