American Family Children's Hospital

New Clinic for Pregnant Women with GI Problems

Pregnant womanMADISON – Inflammatory bowel disease, acid reflux, gallstones, liver conditions and other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions aren't just major discomforts for pregnant women; they may be linked to premature births and other complications.

The new GI Pregnancy clinic offers expectant mothers specialized care for GI problems. It is located at UW Health West Clinic.

According to Dr. Sumona Saha, a UW Health gastroenterologist, UW Health is only the second organization in the country to offer a specialized clinic with treatment for GI problems in women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

"Some GI complications are quite common, such as constipation and heartburn," she says. "They must be managed in a sensitive fashion during pregnancy to ensure that the mother's health improves and the developing baby's health is not compromised."

Saha says her practice already includes a number of pregnant women afflicted with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an incurable intestinal disorder. She offers guidance on how to control IBD and minimize possible negative effects on the fetus.

"If a woman with IBD is very symptomatic, she's at risk for having complications such as pre-term delivery or undersized babies," she says. "If the bowel is very inflamed, that could lead to poor maternal weight gain, and the passage of nutrients to the fetus is not going to be optimal."

Saha says the clinic offers advice on drugs and other treatments to relieve GI disorders and assures expectant mothers that taking certain, necessary medications won't risk the health of newborns.

"One of the reasons pregnant women tend to be undertreated is because everyone is worried how the treatment will affect the baby," she says. "Sometimes, expectant moms with GI problems have the attitude they should 'tough it out' rather than expose their baby to anything.

"That's the wrong approach to take. If the mom's health is suffering, that could take a toll on the baby's health. My job is to find the safest treatment for the mother to improve her symptoms and optimize her pregnancy outcomes. "

Saha, who is also an assistant professor at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, was the first physician in the country to complete a training program in gastroenterology with a specific focus on women's health.

Saha says pregnant women need a referral from their primary-care physician, gastroenterologist or obstetrician/gynecologist before they can receive treatment at the GI Pregnancy clinic.

Date Published: 05/04/2009

News tag(s):  sumona sahagastrointestinalobgyn

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