INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: As inflammatory bowel diseases [IBD] affect female patients almost exclusively during their reproductive age, issues related to fertility, fecundity, pregnancy, delivery, and lactation are of utmost importance. Lack of education and misconceptions regarding the effect of disease and/or treatment on reproductive outcome may lead to voluntary childlessness and/or development of unwanted cervical pathologies which may impact tremendously on patients' welfare and quality of life. The aims of this study were to assess the perspectives of IBD patients on fertility, pregnancy and its outcomes, and lactation, as well as their awareness of human papillomavirus [HPV]-related pathologies and screening for cervical cancer.
METHODS: This prospective study was performed across nine different Mediterranean IBD centres between 2014 and 2015 and included consecutive female IBD patients between the ages of 16 and 50 years. All patients responded to a questionnaire based on ECCO guidelines.
RESULTS: A total of 348 IBD female patients with a mean age of 37.4 (standard deviation [SD] ± 2.1) years were recruited; 50% had a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, 49.4% had Crohn`s disease, and 0.6% patients had a diagnosis of indeterminate colitis [IC]. A significant proportion of patients [ > 60%] were afraid that IBD may lead to a complicated pregnancy and that the disease itself and/or its medications can cause fetal harm. Patients had similar concerns that IBD can be transmitted to their offspring as well as with regard to breastfeeding. Counselling from health care professionals with regard to fertility, pregnancy, and lactation was associated positively with the highest number of pregnancies and inversely with the lowest number of patients who considered voluntary childlessness [p < 0.0001]. Patients with a higher level of education were more likely to get pregnant [p = 0.004]. There was a low uptake of the HPV vaccine. However, there was a reasonably good uptake of cervical cancer screening.
CONCLUSION: Our study demonstrates that women with IBD have misperceptions about fertility, pregnancy, and health maintenance. We also show that education by physicians has a positive influence. We thus conclude that improved multidisciplinary approaches should be used to educate and implement European guidelines for women with IBD.
- Journal Article