Background and Aims: Childlessness and infertility represent a frequent and important issue in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients. Nevertheless, until now epidemiological data remains scarce. Therefore, main objectives of this study were to evaluate the rate of childlessness and the cumulative probability of reproduction in female and male IBD patients within the Swiss Inflammatory Bowel Disease Cohort Study (SIBDCS), a large prospective multicenter nationwide cohort.

Methods: Prospectively collected data of SIBDCS was used, comprising more than 3,300 patients with Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). We analyzed the following groups of patients: 1) female IBD patients aged ≥40 years and diagnosed before age of 30 years with at least one follow-up, 2) female IBD patients who reported actively trying to conceive, with IBD diagnosed <35 years and with age at enrolment <45 years (longitudinal observation), with at least one follow-up, and 3) childless males who actively tried to conceive.

Results: A total of 1,412 female patients from the SIBDCS [843 CD, 539 UC, 30 indeterminate colitis (IC)] with available data were included in our analyses. Out of those 184 females (70.1% CD and 29.9 % UC) were aged ≥ 40 years and have been diagnosed with IBD before the age of 30 years. Among these, 184 women 32.1% were childless. The portion of childless females (36.4%) was significantly higher in CD vs. UC (36.4% vs. 21.8%; p=0.026), equaling a relative risk of childlessness of 1.7 in CD vs. UC. and higher than in the Swiss general population (21%). The mean number of children per female patient was 1.32 (median 1, min 0, max 6), per female with CD 1.12 (median 1, min 0, max 4), per female with UC/IC 1.78 (median 2, min 0, max 6; P=0.001). The longitudinal analysis of female IBD patients trying to conceive revealed that one out of two women neither were pregnant nor had born a child five years after first trying to conceive.

Conclusions: The rate of childlessness in females with CD is higher compared to the general Swiss population, whereas it is similar in women with UC. Moreover, the mean number of children is lower in CD than in UC. Females with CD remain more often childless compared to their UC counterparts. Although the exact underlying mechanisms are largely unknown, this discrepancy should alert healthcare professionals treating CD patients to actively address this topic.


chronic inflammatory bowel disease, ibd, childlessness, infertility, SIBDCS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease