Illuminating a Path to Parenthood for IBD Patients

Talking with young people who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), gastroenterologist Sonia Friedman, MD, hears how the chronic intestinal disorder causes pain beyond physical symptoms.

“I meet young women and men with IBD who want to start a family, but feel panicked about their risks with fertility and pregnancy,” says Friedman, director of women’s health at the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Data for IBD outcomes focuses primarily on treatment effectiveness, so there is a real knowledge gap where that intersects with other important quality of life outcomes like sexual health, fertility, and healthy pregnancy.”

Friedman’s efforts to close this knowledge gap include collaborating with researchers in Denmark, where there is a high prevalence of IBD and some of the world’s largest and most comprehensive epidemiologic studies of the disease.

“Our partnership with researchers in Denmark who work with the Danish National Registries will help patients living with IBD around the world and give them the information they need to move forward confidently with their treatment and family plans,’ says Friedman.

One patient who found her way to the BWH Crohn’s and Colitis Center marveled at the tenacity of Friedman’s research and her compassionate efforts to guide patients aspiring to become parents.

Assured that Friedman’s collaboration with the Danish team will yield key insights on reproductive outcomes for people with IBD, her patient made an anonymous gift of $360,000 to BWH. The gift is primarily dedicated to Friedman’s research, with a portion going to facilities improvements that benefit patients.

“I want to honor my patient and her incredibly generous gift,” Friedman says. “We are using every cent to push this research as far as it will go.”