Oral contraceptives, reproductive factors and risk of inflammatory bowel disease

Gut. 2013 Aug;62(8):1153-9. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2012-302362. Epub 2012 May 22.


Background: Oral contraceptive use has been associated with risk of Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).

Objective: To determine whether this association is confounded or modified by other important lifestyle and reproductive factors.

Design: A prospective cohort study was carried out of 117,375 US women enrolled since 1976 in the Nurses Health Study I (NHS I) and 115,077 women enrolled since 1989 in the Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II) with no prior history of UC or CD. These women had provided information every 2 years, on age at menarche, oral contraceptive use, parity, menopause status and other risk factors. Diagnoses of CD and UC were confirmed by review of medical records. Cox proportional hazards models were used to calculate HRs and 95% CIs.

Results: Among 232,452 women with over 5,030,196 person-years of follow-up, 315 cases of CD and 392 cases of UC were recorded through 2007 in NHS II and 2008 in NHS I. Compared with never users of oral contraceptives, the multivariate-adjusted HRs for CD were 2.82 (95% CI 1.65 to 4.82) among current users and 1.39 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.85) among past users. The association between oral contraceptives and UC differed according to smoking history (pheterogeneity=0.04). Age at menarche, age at first birth and parity were not associated with risk of UC or CD.

Conclusion: In two large prospective cohorts of US women, oral contraceptive use was associated with risk of CD. The association between oral contraceptive use and UC was limited to women with a history of smoking.

Keywords: Crohn's colitis; Crohn's disease; IBD clinical; Inflammatory bowel disease; Nurses' Health Study; adenocarcinoma; adenoma; aspirin; cancer epidemiology; cancer prevention; chemoprevention; cyclooxygenase-2; epidemiology; gastrointestinal haemorrhage; health service research; inflammation; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; oral contraceptive use; reproductive factors; ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Mass Index
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / chemically induced*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / epidemiology
  • Contraceptives, Oral / adverse effects*
  • Crohn Disease / chemically induced*
  • Crohn Disease / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproductive History*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Contraceptives, Oral