Providing support to pregnant women with IBD

30/Sep/2021     Health

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a debilitating condition due to symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea and malnutrition due to poor absorption of nutrients.

For women with IBD who are trying to fall pregnant this disease can present a major hurdle in successfully falling pregnant and carrying a healthy pregnancy to term.

Mater Hospital has an integrated care model focused on optimising pregnancy outcomes of patients with IBD with an Australia’s first multidisciplinary IBD Fertility and Maternity Service (FMS).

The service brings specialists together from Mater’s Maternal Fetal Medicine, Gastroenterology and Allied Health Departments who work collaboratively together to help women fall pregnant and care for them during their pregnancy.

Gastroenterologist Dr Yoon-Kyo An explained of Mater’s IBD patients approximately 700 are of child bearing age which represents a significant need for these support services.

“Pregnancy in the setting of IBD is generally considered high-risk. Concerns over the effect of IBD and its treatments on pregnancy and fetal development can be challenging for patients and health care providers,” Dr An explains.

“Mater Hospital IBD unit set up the IBD Fertility and Maternity Service in 2018 thanks to the support of a grant from the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) Project Grant.

“This service was implemented to optimise maternal and neonatal outcomes and so far, we have had great success through this multidisciplinary support service.”

One patient commented that engaging with the service early in her pregnancy journey was one of the best things she ever did. The team were able to develop a strategy before the patient fell pregnant to ensure minimal risk to both mother and baby.

Another patient from Hervey Bayt had severe ulcerative colitis and was carrying a high-risk pregnancy with a congenital heart condition. Working in collaboration with several departments the team were able to successfully control her disease and she carried her baby to term. 

Dr Yoon explained this specialised service provides the following support:

  • Clinical IBD monitoring (including non-invasive measures such as intestinal ultrasound) and management during pre-conception, peri-partum, and post-partum
  • Education regarding the effects of IBD and medications on fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding
  • Encourage multispecialty collaboration by development of “pregnancy pathway”
  • Liaison with high risk obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine (MFM)
  • Liaison with GP and providing GP education
  • Access to an IBD dietician, pelvic floor physiotherapist and psychiatry/psychology consultation (especially important with post-partum depression).

To find out more about Mater’s Gastroenterology Services please visit,

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