A Pharmacological Approach to Managing Inflammatory Bowel Disease During Conception, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Biologic and Oral Small Molecule Therapy

Drugs. 2019 Jul;79(10):1053-1063. doi: 10.1007/s40265-019-01141-w.


The inflammatory bowel diseases commonly affect individuals during their peak reproductive years. Patients are often concerned about the impact of medical therapies on their ability to conceive, effect on the fetus, as well as the ability to breastfeed, which has led to poor medical adherence during pregnancy. However, most medications are safe, and discontinuation may lead to active disease, which is associated with adverse materno-fetal outcomes. The anti-TNF biologic therapies, infliximab and adalimumab have been extensively studied in the context of pregnancy. They are actively transferred to the placenta during the second and third trimesters; these have not been associated with an increased rate of congenital abnormalities or fetal death. The minimal amounts of drug that are transferred to breast milk are proteolyzed by the infant's digestive system with no reported short- or long-term adverse effects. There is a paucity of clinical data for the other approved anti-TNF agents or newer anti-integrin (vedolizumab) and anti-interleukin (ustekinumab) therapies used in the management of inflammatory bowel disease; however, no significant safety signals have been documented thus far. The new oral small molecule therapy, tofacitinib is teratogenic in animal models and is contra-indicated in patients attempting pregnancy. It is important that patients, as well as physicians managing patients with these conditions, be aware of the impact of these medical therapies during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adalimumab / administration & dosage*
  • Adalimumab / adverse effects
  • Administration, Oral
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child Development / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Infliximab / administration & dosage*
  • Infliximab / adverse effects
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Ustekinumab / administration & dosage*
  • Ustekinumab / adverse effects


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • vedolizumab
  • Infliximab
  • Ustekinumab
  • Adalimumab