Safety of immunomodulators and biologics for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease during pregnancy and breast-feeding

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010 May;16(5):881-95. doi: 10.1002/ibd.21154.


The aim of this article is to critically review available data regarding the safety of immunomodulators and biological therapies during pregnancy and breast-feeding in women with inflammatory bowel disease. Methotrexate and thalidomide can cause congenital anomalies and are contraindicated during pregnancy (and breast-feeding). Although thiopurines have a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rating D, available data suggest that these drugs are safe and well tolerated during pregnancy. Although traditionally women receiving azathioprine or mercaptopurine have been discouraged from breast-feeding because of theoretical potential risks, it seems that these drugs may be safe in this scenario. Treatment with cyclosporine for steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis (UC) during pregnancy can be considered safe and effective, and the use of this drug should be considered in cases of severe UC as a means of avoiding urgent surgery. Breast-feeding is contraindicated for patients receiving cyclosporine. Biological therapies appear to be safe in pregnancy, as no increased risk of malformations has been demonstrated. Therefore, the limited clinical results available suggest that the benefits of infliximab and adalimumab in attaining response and maintaining remission in pregnant patients might outweigh the theoretical risks of drug exposure to the fetus. Stopping therapy in the third trimester may be considered, as it seems that transplacental transfer of infliximab is low prior to this. Certolizumab differs from infliximab and adalimumab in that it is a Fab fragment of an antitumor necrosis factor alpha monoclonal antibody, and therefore it may not be necessary to stop certolizumab in the third trimester. The use of infliximab is probably compatible with breast-feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products / adverse effects
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / adverse effects
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*


  • Biological Products
  • Immunologic Factors