The impact of hormonal contraception on disease-related cyclical symptoms in women with inflammatory bowel diseases

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2014 Oct;20(10):1729-33. doi: 10.1097/MIB.0000000000000134.


Background: Women with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) commonly report an increase in their IBD symptoms related to their menstrual cycle. Hormonal contraceptives are safe for women with IBD and frequently used for reproductive planning, but data are lacking on their effect on IBD-related symptoms.

Methods: We completed a cross-sectional phone survey of 129 women (31% response rate), aged 18 to 45 years, with IBD in an academic practice between March and November 2013. An electronic database query identified eligible women, and we sent an opt-out letter before contact. Questions included demographics, medical and reproductive history, and current/previous contraceptive use. Women were asked if/how their menses affected IBD-related symptoms and if/how their contraceptive affected symptoms. We calculated descriptive statistics and made comparisons by Crohn's disease versus ulcerative colitis on Stata V11.

Results: Participants were predominately white (85%) and college educated (97%), with a mean age of 34.2 (SD 6.2, range 19-45) years. Sixty percent had Crohn's disease, and 30% had IBD-related surgery previously. Half of the participants were parous, and 57% desired future pregnancy. Of the participants, 88% reported current or past hormonal contraceptive use and 60% noted cyclical IBD symptoms. Symptomatic improvement in cyclical IBD symptoms was reported by 19% of estrogen-based contraceptive users and 47% of levonorgestrel intrauterine device users. Only 5% of all hormonal method users reported symptomatic worsening.

Conclusions: In a subset of women with IBD, 20% of hormonal contraception users reported improved cyclical menstrual-related IBD symptoms. Health care providers should consider potential noncontraceptive benefits of hormonal contraception in women with cyclical IBD symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / physiopathology*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / administration & dosage*
  • Crohn Disease / physiopathology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / drug effects
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal