Ulcerative colitis (UC) and other forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may affect pregnancy outcomes, including a higher risk of pregnancy loss, preterm delivery, and low birth weight.

Pregnancy may worsen the symptoms of UC. However, when working closely with a healthcare professional, it is possible to have a successful pregnancy with UC.

Doctors may recommend that people aim for good disease management before trying to conceive.

This article discusses UC and pregnancy, including outcomes, precautions, and more.

Content warning

This feature mentions pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or both. Please read at your own discretion.

Was this helpful?
Ulcerative colitis during pregnancy can present complications with delivery and laborShare on Pinterest
Johner Images/Getty Images

In general, people with IBD have a higher risk of pregnancy and delivery complications, including:

Therefore, it is important a person with UC or any other form of IBD consult a doctor before becoming pregnant.

Doctors will treat a pregnant person with UC as high risk, meaning that they will want to check in regularly and take extra steps to avoid or manage complications that may arise from the condition.

A doctor can work alongside the person to ensure they have a safe and healthy pregnancy. By monitoring an individual’s UC and pregnancy, doctors can help manage issues should they arise.

There are mixed results on whether pregnancy can worsen or improve symptoms of UC.

According to a 2023 review, people who have active IBD before pregnancy have a higher risk of a symptom flare-up during pregnancy. Doctors associate IBD flare-ups with unfavorable pregnancy outcomes.

As a result, doctors recommend a person only attempt to conceive when their IBD is in remission. A person may still experience a flare-up during pregnancy, even if they are in remission.

However, according to a 2021 analysis, pregnancy can have a beneficial effect on IBD symptoms, especially when a person conceives during remission.

The study’s researchers explain how a large European study found that 67% of people with active UC during conception achieved remission during pregnancy.

It is still important, under the guidance of a doctor, for a person to continue taking medication for IBD during pregnancy. This will help prevent flare-ups and adverse outcomes.

If a person experiences a UC flare-up during pregnancy, it is important to contact a doctor.

The rates of fertility challenges in females with IBD, including UC, are similar to that of the general population and range from 5–14%. So, UC does not directly cause fertility challenges.

However, people with IBD can experience fertility problems due to psychological stress or repeated surgeries resulting from the condition.

If a person with UC wishes to get pregnant, it is best to contact a doctor. People experiencing fertility challenges may wish to receive both medical and psychological support for UC to increase their chances of a healthy pregnancy.

Most of the medications doctors prescribe for IBD are safe to use during pregnancy.

Medications such as corticosteroids, mesalazine, azathioprine, anti-TNF agents, and cyclosporine do not cause developmental abnormalities or pregnancy complications.

It is important for a person with UC to continue taking medications, under the advice of a doctor, while they are pregnant or attempting to conceive.

This section answers some common questions about UC and pregnancy.

Can pregnancy cure ulcerative colitis?

Pregnancy cannot cure UC.

However, a 2021 analysis explains that pregnancy can have a beneficial effect on UC symptoms for some people, especially if they conceive during remission.

The authors explain how a large European study found that 67% of people who had active UC at conception achieved remission during pregnancy.

However, this may not be the case for everyone. A 2023 review found that pregnancy can also worsen UC symptoms and increase the risk of flare-ups.

Can I pass ulcerative colitis onto my child?

The risk of a child inheriting UC from a parent is very low.

According to a 2021 analysis, there is a small risk of a person inheriting UC from a parent. If only one parent has UC, the chance of a child inheriting the condition is around 9%.

If both parents have UC, the child’s risk of inheriting it rises to 40%.

Complications from pregnancy may be slightly more likely for a person with UC, but many people with the disease have few or no complications during pregnancy.

Most doctors will advise a person to try to get pregnant when they have been symptom-free for a few months.

The course of UC varies among individuals. As such, there are no guarantees of a pregnancy that is free from complications.

However, this is not the case for all pregnancies. Working closely with a doctor throughout the pregnancy will give a person the best chance of avoiding or managing any complications.

Read the article in Spanish.