IBD And Infertility

What Is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease, which is different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), is the general term for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These two chronic diseases cause inflammation in the intestines and while they do have some things in common, there are differences as well.

If there is a lesser of the two evils, then ulcerative colitis may be it. UC is an inflammatory disease of the colon in which the inner lining of the intestine becomes inflamed and develops open sores. It is most severe in the rectal area and often causes diarrhea. If the lining of the colon is damaged, the stool will appear with blood and mucus.

Crohn's disease most frequently affects the last part of the small intestine, the terminal ileum, as well as parts of the large intestine-although it is not limited to this area and can appear in any part of the digestive tract. The inflammation caused by Crohn's disease extends deep into the layers of the intestinal wall and generally involves the entire bowel wall, unlike ulcerative colitis which affects the lining only.

The Effect Of Drugs On Fertility

IBD does not necessarily reduce fertility in men and women. However, men taking certain drugs to control IBD, particularly UC, may find they are less fertile. While many of the drugs used to treat IBD are safe to take when trying to conceive, some of the immunosuppressive drugs may cause birth defects. Before ceasing medication in order to conceive, a person should check in with his medical practitioner. Fertility is reduced by active flare-ups of IBD.

The biggest fertility concern for people with IBD is the effect of the drugs taken to manage the disease on conception, pregnancy, and ultimately the health of the baby. Methotrexate and mycophenolate mofetil should not be taken when a couple is trying to conceive because there is an increased risk of birth defects in the baby. Treatment with Infliximab and Adalimumab, both relatively new drugs used in severe cases of Crohn's disease, should be avoided and contraception is advised for six months after cessation of use.

Sulphasalazine, a commonly used medication for IBD, causes reduced fertility in men. It also increases the risk of birth defects. Good alternatives to sulphasalazine, such as mesalazine, olsalazine or balsalazide, have the same effect on the colon without affecting fertility.

Sperm Issues For Men With Crohn's Disease

When Crohn's disease is severe in men, they may not produce a high number of sperm and the sperm they are able to produce may be damaged and ill functioning. Men with IBD may be very underweight and undernourished, which also affects fertility. In some cases of very severe Crohn's disease, men have had their colon, including their rectum, removed. These men may not be able to have an erection due to damage to the nerves in the abdomen. Abscesses in the pelvis and anal area can also cause difficulty with erection and ejaculation.

Along with medication changes and monitoring by the doctor, chances of fertility increase with proper diet, exercise, moderation in drinking, and smoking cessation. Additionally, Vitamin B6 and the mineral Zinc in one's diet go a long way to naturally helping fertility.

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