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  • Pregnancy can exacerbate many chronic gastrointestinal disorders; the central goal of evaluation is to control symptoms and rule out an urgent need for surgery while minimizing exposure to excessive tests and medications.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients should be in remission while trying to conceive, and most IBD medications are safe in pregnancy.

  • Appendicitis is the most common indication for surgery during pregnancy.

  • Indications for urgent surgery are the same in pregnant as in nonpregnant patients.

  • Incidence of gallstone-related disease is increased in pregnancy.

  • Efforts should be made to minimize risk to mother and fetus when performing diagnostic endoscopic and radiologic tests.

General Considerations

The management of gastrointestinal disease during pregnancy poses multiple challenges. First, gastrointestinal diseases are common during pregnancy, and many predisposing gastrointestinal disorders are aggravated by pregnancy. Second, diagnostic options are often limited in pregnancy as there is a need to minimize testing out of concern for both maternal and fetal exposure. Finally, the management of these diseases is more complex due to the need to consider additional risks to both the pregnant mother and the fetus incurred by medications, endoscopic procedures, and surgeries. Data on safety and efficacy of both medications and procedures during pregnancy are often scarce or inadequate; few controlled trials have included pregnant women, and fewer still were designed specifically to study gastrointestinal disease in this population. Table 7–1 summarizes the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categories for medication use in pregnancy.

Table 7–1.FDA categories for the use of medications in pregnancy.
Biertho  L, Sebajang  H, Bamehriz  F  et al.. Effect of pregnancy on effectiveness of laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication. Surg Endosc. 2006;20:385–388.
[PubMed: 16391963]  
Cohen-Kerem  R, Railton  C, Oren  D  et al.. Pregnancy outcome following non-obstetric surgical intervention. Am J Surg. 2005;190:467–473.

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