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Specialist IBD clinic

Restores hopes of pregnancy for people with inflammatory bowel disease.

By Matilda Marozzi

Many Australians with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) opt not to have children due to concerns their condition may impact the pregnancy. Now a specialist unit at the Royal Melbourne Hospital is giving families the information and support they need to have children safely. 

Associate Professor Britt Christensen helps run the IBD pregnancy clinic and says the work is incredibly rewarding.

“The best thing for me is helping these women who were hesitant about having children due to fear that they couldn’t get pregnant or that it was too risky,” she said.

“Getting a woman through a whole pregnancy and then they have healthy babies at the end of it – that is life changing for them.”

IBD affects 75,000 Australians

IBD generally consists of two conditions – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

They are both lifelong autoimmune diseases where the immune system attacks the bowels.

Well-managed patients can live with few symptoms but, left untreated, the conditions can be debilitating.

According to Dr Christensen, Australia has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world, with more than one in 200 people affected.

“It causes diarrhoea, increased bowel frequency and urgency, bleeding, fatigue and severe abdominal pain.”

People are generally diagnosed with IBD conditions between the ages of 16 and 40 – their peak reproductive years.

If the condition is in “deep remission” women can have an uncomplicated pregnancy.

For those who have active disease before conceiving, there is a risk their condition could deteriorate.

The babies are also at increased risk of being born early or being born with at a smaller weight – which can lead to admission to a neonatal intensive care unit or developmental issues.

‘I felt supported’

Sarah Zerbib, a mother of two, was diagnosed with an IBD in her teens.

For most of her 20s and 30s she was in deep remission.

When she became pregnant with her first child five years ago, she wasn’t “too worried” about complications.

The pregnancy went smoothly, however after she gave birth Ms Zerbib had a serious flare up.

“Because I wasn’t aware of the risks that came as a very big surprise,” she said.

“I became very unwell.”

Before she conceived her second child, she was referred to the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) IBD pregnancy clinic.

They made “a massive difference”, she said, helping her recover from the flare up and advising her when she was healthy enough to try to conceive.

“I was very informed. I felt very well cared for from all angles,” she said.

Original source here.

Learn more about Pregnancy and IBD by downloading CCA’s free eBook.

Posted on: November 7 2021

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