Controlling the occurrence of systemic inflammation is imperative for women with IBD during pregnancy.
IBD can have a detrimental impact on women who are expecting or even their unborn children, but there are steps that can be taken to help curtail IBD flares and the accumulation of inflammation.
Inflammatory bowel disease, commonly abbreviated as IBD, is a term used to describe ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. These two ailments are autoimmune disorders that attack portions of the digestive tract by causing inflammation in regions in the body ranging from the large intestine (colitis) to the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines (Crohn’s disease).
Symptoms can vary from case to case. However, each ailment comes with certain common manifestations such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, decreased appetite and, in severe instances, bloody stools, and internal bleeding. Furthermore, though affected individuals often experience these conditions for life, physical manifestations are not witnessed every day. Rather, IBD patients experience symptomatic periods known as flares that may last anywhere from several weeks to several months.
Inflammation is the body’s natural way of defending against systemic invaders such as allergens and hostile microscopic organisms like bacteria and viruses. That said, chronic or severe inflammation can cause a host of internal injuries and illnesses or exacerbate existing conditions such as IBD. The increased stress on the body and strain faced by expecting women places them at an increased risk of feeling the adverse effects of systemic inflammation.
IBD And Pregnancy
Many physicians believe women with some form of IBD can still become pregnant and safely carry an unborn child full-term. However, many of these same medical professionals suggest that the best time for those afflicted with IBD to conceive is during a period of remission. While conception and gestation during a flare is possible, these flares can worsen symptoms that might place both mother and fetus at unnecessary risk for complications including difficult deliveries, miscarriages, premature births, and infants born with dangerously low birth weights.
Steps Women With IBD Can Take
Doctors say that latent IBD should neither deter a woman from attempting to conceive nor prevent the birth of a healthy newborn. These healthcare professionals recommend that these patients strictly adhere to several precautions geared towards preventing flareups and ensuring the health and safety of their unborn children. Such safeguards include:
- Close Medical Monitoring – Pregnant women previously diagnosed with IBD are strongly advised to receive frequent evaluations from their respective healthcare providers. Physicians can monitor the health of the patient’s digestive tract and potentially identify the onset of a flareup before it becomes symptomatic.
- Reviewing Medications – Many women with IBD are prescribed some form of medication. However, some of these drugs could possess the potential to adversely impact an unborn child. Medical professionals urge women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to review all medications taken and possibly alter treatment protocols if they pose any risk to the developing child.
- Consuming A Healthy Diet– Doctors and nutritionists suggest that IBD sufferers eat simple foods that do not contain high concentrations of fat, salt, grease, or heavy spices. Additionally, these subjects are advised to refrain from consuming foods known to produce excess gas or elicit potentially caustic impacts on the digestive tract such as alcohol, tobacco and products containing elevated levels of caffeine.
- Expecting women with IBD are asked to consider eating foods with high fiber contents (as fiber promotes a healthy gastrointestinal system), drink large quantities of water and consume foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are powerful nutrients known for their ability to curtail the accumulation of systemic inflammation. These substances are often found in produce products like fruits and vegetables.
- Limiting Stress Exposure – Stress is notorious for triggering IBD flares. While eliminating all sources of stress is close to impossible, especially for expecting women expressing natural and understandable concern for their unborn child, reducing exposure to as many unnecessary stressors as possible is vital. Moreover, expecting women are encouraged to pursue a relaxing hobby as a means of reducing stress before, during, and after pregnancy.