Digestive Disorders and Fertility: How They Are Related

Posted by Dr Michael A Feinman | Filed under Blog, Getting Pregnant, Infertility

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The causes for infertility can be as complicated as genetics or as simple as a diet change. One often overlooked cause of fertility problems is digestive disorders. Three examples of digestive disorders include Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease.

Digestive Disorders


Digestive disorders wreak havoc on your body. They rob you of nutrients the body is trying to absorb, making it difficult for you to maintain the health needed for pregnancy. These disorders cause weight loss and malnutrition. Women will stop having periods, since their level of body fat will not allow ovulation to occur. Each disorder has unique symptoms that may be difficult to catch.

Crohn’s disease:
Crohn’s disease is categorized as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), along with ulcerative colitis. You will experience abdominal cramping, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. This is caused by inflammation at the beginning of the colon. The inflammation could become widespread and affect your fallopian tubes. Treatment options: How you are treated could impact your fertility. Medication is the first step to treating the disease, yet some medications work against pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about your desire to get pregnant before beginning treatment.

Ulcerative colitis:
Ulcerative colitis has similar symptoms as Crohn’s, since they are both IBDs. Diarrhea and rectal bleeding are the most common ones, caused by sores and inflammation along the large intestine. Treatment options: Treatment for ulcerative colitis is a surgery where part of the large intestine is cut out and replaced with a pouch from the small intestine. Women increase their chance of infertility by 50 percent after the surgery. Women who only take medication have a 15 percent increase in infertility odds.

Celiac disease:
Celiac disease has sneakier symptoms than other digestive disorders. Cramping and bloating occur but can easily be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Celiac disease is caused by a gluten allergy, found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Since celiac disease is a food allergy, your body has trouble absorbing nutrients. If you have stomach pain, bloating or irregular periods, get an antibody test from your doctor to conclude whether you are experiencing IBS or celiac disease. Treatment options: Treatment options for celiac disease are relatively simple. Changing your diet to gluten-free will prevent the antibodies from forming and pushing the important nutrients out of your system, which will help prepare your body for pregnancy.


It is absolutely possible to get pregnant after treating these diseases. It is best to make a fertility plan with your doctor so these diseases can be treated safely without risk of decreasing your fertility. Once you have addressed these issues, however, you are taking all the right steps to successfully starting your family.


Michael Feinman, MD
HRC Fertility
Location: Encino, West Lake Village, & West Los Angeles



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