Gastroenterology and Pregnancy

Unlike liver disease, there are no gastrointestinal diseases specifically caused by pregnancy. However, pregnancy may complicate most gastrointestinal diseases, particularly gastroesophageal reflux and inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, gastrointestinal symptoms are extremely common in the pregnant patient. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and dyspepsia occur in 50–90% of all patients.1 Most of these symptoms are a manifestation of normal altered physiology in which changes occur both functionally and anatomically. These changes may cause new symptoms, worsen preexisting disease, or mask potentially deadly disease. A lack of experience in dealing with these symptoms can have devastating effects. The physician must be able to distinguish whether these symptoms are those of normal pregnancy or a potentially life-threatening complication such as preeclampsia. The physician must also know which medications are safe in pregnancy, as well as which tests are safe to perform during pregnancy.

Some women have GI disorders that are unique to pregnancy. Other pregnant patients present with chronic GI disorders that require special consideration during pregnancy.

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