If you’re living with arthritis, the journey in family planning and parenthood can be uncertain and bring about challenges, but with careful planning, communication with healthcare professionals and a supportive network, you can safely and successfully navigate the journey of pregnancy.
What you need to know
Arthritis itself does not directly affect fertility however, certain medications like disease modifying rheumatic drugs (DMARD’s) used to manage arthritis symptoms may have an impact in both men and women.
In some cases, abnormal auto-immune function could result in difficulty falling pregnant, carrying the baby to term, difficulties in IVF failure or chemical pregnancies. It is important to talk to your rheumatology team as early as you can in the family planning stages and they will be able to help with a coordinated approach to your medication and supplementation use.
Women with arthritis can have successful pregnancies, but it is essential to plan ahead and work closely with your rheumatologist and obstetrician. If arthritis affects your back or hips, you may notice more pain in those joints as your baby grows which could place more stress on affected joints. Ask if your obstetrician has experience working with women with disabilities.
In some cases, involvement of the hips and spine could make a vaginal delivery more difficult and inflammation of the spine could make it difficult to administer an epidural, so don’t forget to ask about your anaesthesiologist’s experience, especially if they plan on working with you in the delivery room. – the injection of an analgesic directly into space around the spinal cord to numb the lower half the body during delivery.
Consulting with a rheumatologist and an obstetrician who have experience in managing arthritis and pregnancy is recommended to optimize the management of you condition and thrive through the various stages of pregnancy.
Before planning a pregnancy or becoming pregnant, it is crucial to review medications used for arthritis management. If the drugs you were taking at conception are controlling your disease, your doctor will likely have you continue them throughout pregnancy, only if they are pregnancy-compatible.
Some medications, such as methotrexate or certain biologics, may need to be discontinued due to potential risks to the developing fetus. Alternative treatment options can be explored with the guidance of healthcare professionals to ensure optimal disease control during pregnancy whilst ensuring the safety of your baby.
Maintaining your general health and wellbeing is vital during family planning and pregnancy. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, healthy weight management, and joint-friendly activities, along with appropriate medication management and regular monitoring of disease activity are all key to thriving throughout pregnancy.
Weight gain for the most part is inevitable but the weight gain guidelines can be used to ensure you are gaining an optimal amount of weights at a steady rate for yourself, baby and your joint.
Make sure you speak to your primary healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your weight prior to falling pregnant, or during your pregnancy.
- Pregnancy weight gain chart for BMI less than 25kg/m2 | NEMO Maternal Health Group
- Pregnancy weight gain chart for BMI more than 25kg/m2 | NEMO Maternal Health Group
Building a strong support network is essential for individuals with arthritis, particularly during the demands of pregnancy and early parenthood. Engaging with support groups, seeking emotional support from loved ones, and connecting with other individuals navigating similar experiences can provide invaluable guidance and understanding.
Now that we have the new Arthritis Assist program, you may be able to find a connection with someone else on the same journey as you!
Adaptations and Assistive Devices
To prepare for babies arrival, you may want to think about incorporating adaptations and assistive devices into daily routines can help you prepare ahead for the physical demands that come with being a new parent and minimise the strain on joints.
Using tools like strollers with adjustable handles, baby-proofing the home to reduce bending and reaching, and utilizing joint-friendly baby equipment can contribute to more comfortable parenting experiences.
Prioritizing self-care is crucial for parents with arthritis. Ensuring sufficient rest, engaging in stress-reducing activities, and practicing gentle exercises or stretches can help manage arthritis symptoms and maintain overall well-being while preparing for a new chapter ahead.
If you haven’t already, make sure you have watched our previous webinar on ‘Relationships, Sex & Arthritis‘ – you may find this useful and interesting for maintaining the intimacy between yourself and your partner – before, during and after baby comes along.