Voluntary childlessness is increased in women with inflammatory bowel disease

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2007 May;13(5):591-9. doi: 10.1002/ibd.20082.


Background: The women's health aspect of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a newer area of study; childbearing issues have received little attention despite the fact that IBD affects women predominantly during their childbearing years. The aim of this study was to better understand patients' considerations about pregnancy-related issues and to examine trends in childbearing so that physicians are able to better tailor their advice to IBD-specific concerns.

Methods: Data were gathered from specific questions in 3147 surveys mailed anonymously to all members of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) Illinois Carol Fisher chapter. The subjects were provided a pre-addressed, pre-stamped return envelope and were instructed to return their completed surveys with no identifying information. Subjects were from the Illinois community. Females IBD patients were 15-44 of age and were members of the CCFA Illinois Carol Fisher chapter.

Results: In this study, 169 females age 15-44 years with IBD, 110 with Crohn's disease (CD) and 59 with ulcerative colitis (UC), were identified. Most subjects were white. IBD patients had a higher rate of voluntary childlessness (CD 18%, UC 14%) than the 6.2% seen in the general population (P = 0.001 for CD, P = 0.08 for UC). Women with UC had a lower rate of temporary childlessness (CD 28%, UC 13.6%) than the general population (33%) (P = NS and P < 0.0001 for UC). The rates of nonvoluntary childlessness in IBD were similar to the general population. Women with IBD also had fewer children than their state and national counterparts. The state of the patients' IBD, including those who had gone through a previous pregnancy with IBD, did not alter their resolve to have children. The educational level of our subjects was higher than the nationwide and statewide levels; 76% of the subjects used contraception before diagnosis of IBD, and 82% used it after diagnosis. The most common choices were oral contraception, barrier methods, and abstinence. This study was unable to compare the lifetime rates of complications of pregnancy with population-based controls because such data were unavailable. Furthermore, their findings in this study may not be generalized to all ethnic groups because our population was mostly white.

Conclusions: Women with IBD had a higher rate of voluntary childlessness and fewer children than the general population. These observations are likely attributable to a higher educational achievement and to racial background of the patients rather than to IBD-related reasons. Although contraception use in patients with IBD was lower that in the general population, use was higher after the diagnosis of IBD than before the diagnosis. Contraceptive choices and adoption rates were similar to the general population. Women with CD were more affected by miscarriages after diagnosis with IBD than those with UC.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / psychology*
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Reproductive Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires