Melbourne Clinic helps mums with Crohn’s disease

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TOO many women, such as Anna Cardamis, are left an impossible choice — a risky pregnancy, abandoning medication at risk of even greater dangers, or forgetting the idea of having children altogether.
But five-month-old Alexander is living proof of a new option being given to Ms Cardamis and other women by an Australian-first clinic.

Living with Crohn’s disease placed Ms Cardamis in a catch-22 situation; where the medication needed to overcome the bowel condition could risk her pregnancy, while going without it would inflame the disease and become more dangerous.

“I was diagnosed prior to falling pregnant and I was quite concerned about whether I could fall pregnant or, if I did fall pregnant and my disease played up, what would that mean,” Ms Cardamis said.

“If your disease is left untreated it could progress quite rapidly while pregnant, you could end up in surgery and delivering the baby early, which is a lot worse than potentially having some medications.
“The reality was I had no other options and it was going to be more harmful for my baby if my disease wasn’t well managed.”

With about one in 250 young Australians diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, St Vincent’s Hospital has established Australia’s first clinic combining gastroenterologists and obstetricians to help women overcome their conditions to have safe pregnancies.

Dr Emma Flanagan said the new clinic aimed to help women manage their disease to prevent growth retardation or premature births.

“We are finding a lot of women are unnecessarily ceasing their medications for inflammatory bowel disease during pregnancy … and that can effect the pregnancy and cause miscarriages or premature deliveries,” she said.

“Part of the clinic is reassuring patients that, if we can get their disease under control, they have a very good chance of having a healthy pregnancy.

“There are quite high rates of voluntary childlessness. There are patients with inflammatory bowel disease who’ve chosen not to have children became they think there will be a problem with their disease, their fertility or medication.