Contraceptive use among women with inflammatory bowel disease: A systematic review

Lauren B. Zapata, Melissa E. Paulen, Catherine D Cansino, Polly A. Marchbanks, Kathryn M. Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background: There are theoretical concerns that use of hormonal contraceptives by women with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) might increase disease relapse and risk of other adverse health outcomes, including thrombosis. In addition, there are concerns that IBD-related malabsorption might decrease the effectiveness of orally ingested contraceptives. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence on the safety and effectiveness of contraceptive use among women with IBD. Study Design: We searched the PubMed database for peer-reviewed articles relevant to contraceptive use and IBD that were published in any language from inception of the database through February 2009. We used standard abstract forms and grading systems to summarize and assess the quality of the evidence. Results: From 207 articles, we identified 10 studies that met our inclusion criteria. Evidence from five cohort studies (Level II-2, fair to good) suggests no increased risk of IBD relapse with use of oral contraceptives. Evidence from two pharmacokinetic studies (not graded) suggests that women with mild ulcerative colitis and those with an ileostomy following a proctocolectomy with small ileal resections have plasma concentrations of steroid hormones after oral ingestion of higher doses of combined oral contraceptives that are similar to the plasma concentrations among healthy volunteers. No studies were found that examined the risk of thrombosis among women with IBD who used hormonal contraceptives. Conclusions: Limited evidence suggests there is no increased risk of disease relapse among women with IBD who use oral contraceptives, and there seem to be no differences in the absorption of higher-dose combined oral contraceptives between women with mild ulcerative colitis and small ileal resections and healthy women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-85
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Contraception
  • Crohn's disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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