The Influence of Hormonal Fluctuation on Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptom Severity-A Cross-Sectional Cohort Study

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2018 Jan 18;24(2):387-393. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izx004.


Background: Many women with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) report changes in symptoms in association with hormonal changes during menses, pregnancy, and hormonal contraceptive use, suggesting a hormonal influence on disease activity. We aimed to identify and characterize IBD symptom fluctuations in women during times of hormonal variation.

Methods: From June 2012 through September 2012, women enrolled in Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America Partners , an online Internet cohort of patients with IBD, were invited to participate in this study. Using a 5-point Likert scale, participants were asked to rate symptom changes during their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the postpartum period, and after menopause. Clinical and demographic differences were assessed using univariate and multivariable methods.

Results: A total of 1,203 female patients with Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) participated (64% CD, 34% UC). Over half of the women with IBD reported worsening symptoms during menses. Symptom changes were similar between women with CD vs UC, except in pregnancy, where symptom worsening during pregnancy was more commonly seen in UC than CD (P = 0.02). Overall, women reporting symptom worsening were younger at the time of IBD diagnosis (P < 0.01), had lower quality of life (SIBDQ) scores (P < 0.01), and had a higher BMI (25 vs 24) than women without symptom worsening.

Conclusions: Women with IBD report changes in symptom severity during times of hormone fluctuation. Further clarification of the role of hormones in IBD is warranted in order to understand these relationships and to identify potential management strategies for women with IBD and hormonally sensitive gastrointestinal symptoms.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; hormonal fluctuation; inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Menopause / physiology*
  • Menstruation / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postpartum Period / physiology*
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Regression Analysis
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires